Bacillus anthracis: toxicology, epidemiology and current rapid-detection methods

Anal Bioanal Chem. 2006 Jan;384(1):73-84. doi: 10.1007/s00216-005-0090-x. Epub 2005 Nov 11.


B. anthracis, the causative agent for anthrax, has been well studied for over 150 years. Due to the genetic similarities among various Bacillus species, as well as its existence in both a spore form and a vegetative state, the detection and specific identification of B. anthracis have been proven to require complex techniques and/or laborious methods. With the heightened interest in the organism as a potential biological threat agent, a large number of interesting detection technologies have recently been developed, including methods involving immunological and nucleic acid-based assay formats. The technologies range from culture-based methods to portable Total Analysis Systems based on real-time PCR. This review with 170 references provides a brief background on the toxicology and epidemiology of B. anthracis, discusses challenges associated with its detection related to genetic similarities to other species, and reviews immunological and, with greater emphasis, nucleic acid-based detection systems.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anthrax / diagnosis*
  • Anthrax / epidemiology*
  • Anthrax / genetics
  • Antigens, Bacterial / toxicity*
  • Bacillus anthracis / genetics
  • Bacillus anthracis / isolation & purification*
  • Bacterial Toxins / toxicity*
  • Humans
  • Nucleic Acids / analysis
  • Time Factors


  • Antigens, Bacterial
  • Bacterial Toxins
  • Nucleic Acids
  • anthrax toxin