The ecology of Bacillus anthracis

Mol Aspects Med. 2009 Dec;30(6):356-67. doi: 10.1016/j.mam.2009.08.003. Epub 2009 Aug 29.


The global distribution of anthrax is largely determined by soils with high calcium levels and a pH above 6.1, which foster spore survival. It is speculated that the spore exosporium probably plays a key part by restricting dispersal and thereby increasing the probability of a grazing animal acquiring a lethal dose. 'Anthrax Seasons' are characterized by hot-dry weather which stresses animals and reduces their innate resistance to infection allowing low doses of spores to be infective. Necrophagic flies act as case-multipliers and haemophagic flies as space-multipliers; the latter are aided by climatic factors which play a key part in whether epidemics occur. Host death is a function of species sensitivity to the toxins. The major function of scavengers is to open the carcass, spill fluids, and thereby aid bacilli dispersal and initiate sporulation. In the context of landscape ecology viable spore distribution is a function of mean annual temperature, annual precipitation, elevation, mean NDVI, annual NDVI amplitude, soil moisture content, and soil pH.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anthrax / microbiology*
  • Anthrax / mortality
  • Anthrax / transmission
  • Bacillus anthracis* / genetics
  • Bacillus anthracis* / metabolism
  • Bacillus anthracis* / pathogenicity
  • Climate
  • Disease Reservoirs
  • Ecology*
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Seasons
  • Soil Microbiology*
  • Spores, Bacterial / immunology*