Bacillus anthracis (anthrax) is an organism that is of prime importance when considering bioterrorism issues. It is considered one of the most dangerous and most likely agents that would be used in a bioterrorist attack. When deprived of nutrients, the bacteria revert to a dormant spore form that is able to withstand a great deal of environmental stress. As such, the spores are the optimal agent for biological weapons purposes.
B. anthracis, though, is a naturally occurring bacterium found in the soil in most parts of the world. It has historically been linked to several animal and human epidemics, although it was initially much more common in animals. It occurs in one of three forms: cutaneous, inhalational, or gastrointestinal (GI). Anthrax's virulence is associated with three toxins—lethal factor, edema factor, and protective antigen—and with a protein capsule that protects the bacteria from attack by the host’s immune system.
Anthrax is one of the earliest recorded animal diseases; Moses’ description of a disease that afflicted the animal population in Exodus 9:9 is thought to refer to anthrax. Witkowski and Praish went further in analyzing the descriptions of the 10 plagues that befell Egypt in the Old Testament.51 Based on the text and what is currently known about anthrax infections, the paper concludes that the fifth, sixth, and tenth plagues that struck Egypt could have been caused by B. anthracis. The fifth plague affected only herbivores, with symptoms resembling those that have been observed in livestock. The sixth plague was said to have caused boils and other ulcers, resembling the signs of cutaneous anthrax. Finally, the