Anthrax is an acute infectious disease caused by the spore-forming bacterium Bacillus anthracis. Anthrax most commonly occurs in hoofed mammals and can also infect humans.
Anthrax is important in the history of medicine. In 1875, the pioneering bacteriologist Robert Koch convincingly proved for the first time that a particular disease, anthrax, was caused by a specific microbe, Bacillus anthracis. Koch's proof involved four steps, which have become known as Koch's postulates:
- The microbe must always be present in animals showing the disease, and never in healthy animals.
- It must be possible to isolate the microbe and grow it in pure culture.
- Inoculating a healthy animal with the cultured microbe must cause the animal to develop the disease.
- It must be to isolate the microbe from the infected animal, culture it, and show that it is the same kind microbe with which it had been inoculated.
Anthrax became notable in the news in 2001, due to anthrax scares caused by anthrax found in letters written to several media personalities and politicians, including then-Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle. This occurred shortly after 9/11. Twenty-two people developed anthrax infections, and five of them died. Some of the survivors suffer from continuing serious health problems. The strain of anthrax used in the attacks was first developed in a U.S. Army facility in Fort Detrick, Maryland. The wife of one of the victims, Robert Stevens, is suing the U.S. government for lax security. She alleges that the anthrax came from the facility at Fort Detrick.