Causes of Anthrax

The main cause of anthrax is exposure to infected animals. People who fall in the high-risk category include vets, farmers, and people who work in the tanning and wool industry.

The bacillus anthracis bacteria affect human beings in different ways:

  • Through the Skin: Also known as cutaneous anthrax, this infection results in sores on the skin. Caused by exposure to the spores of the bacteria on infected animals and animal products such as wool, hides, or bones, vets or farmers are especially susceptible to the infection. Though humans are resistant to bacterial infections, the spores may enter the body via small cuts or breaks in the skin. Antibiotics are generally used to treat cutaneous anthrax.
  • Through Inhalation: Anthrax by inhalation occurs when spores are breathed into the lungs. The spores then multiply within the lungs and infect the bloodstream with toxins. An anthrax infection can affect the kidneys, spleen, and liver. In severe cases, another type of anthrax known as septicemic anthrax will develop and can even lead to death if not treated in time. People, who handle animal hides and hair for a living, may develop inhalational anthrax. That is why this type is also known as Woolsorter’s disease.
  • Through Ingestion: Gastrointestinal anthrax develops when humans eat infected meat products. Symptoms may include sores in the throat and mouth and difficulty in swallowing. However, gastrointestinal anthrax is often difficult to diagnose and has a very high death rate as a result.
Once the bacterium enters the human body, the spores can remain dormant for a while before they sprout or ‘germinate.’ The process of germination takes approximately one to six days. Once the spores germinate, toxic substances are released into the bloodstream affecting organs and tissues and causing swelling and internal bleeding.