Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Spoil Spores

Understanding more about the incidence and distribution of anthrax in humans and livestock of Vietnam

05 March 2023

Spoil Spores

A potentially fatal disease caused by the spores of the bacterium Bacillus anthracis, anthrax is often discussed for its potential as a sinister biological weapon. Yet typical infection routes are more mundane, through contact with contaminated water, soil, or infected animals. In particular, herbivores like cattle can ingest naturally-occurring spores in soil while grazing. Vaccines provide effective protection against infection, but spores can remain dormant in soil for several years, so livestock should be regularly vaccinated wherever anthrax was once present. In northern Vietnam, where domesticated water buffalo (Bubalus bubalis, pictured) are major hosts for B. anthracis, recent records show substantial overlap between anthrax cases in humans and livestock, while virtually all cases with sufficient information involved contact with sick or dead animals, or meat. More happily, fewer human cases were reported when livestock vaccination rates were high, demonstrating the importance of vaccination for protecting animals, humans and their livelihoods.

Written by Emmanuelle Briolat

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