Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

Overview Symptoms cutaneous anthrax inhalational anthrax intestinal anthrax Evaluation Treatment drugs Warning Signs Prevention vaccine Outlook Underlying Cause types Transmission

Pulmonary Anthrax Underlying Cause

Anthrax is cause by a bacteria, called Bacillus anthracis. Anthrax bacteria protect themselves by forming spores. A spore is a strong, protective shell that surrounds the bacteria. This allows the bacteria to survive in harsh surroundings until they enter the body of mammal. When the spores are in surroundings that support growth, they start to grow. The bacteria are released from the spore and multiply, which causes an infection inside the animal. In nature, only hoofed mammals, such as cattle, sheep, goats, camels and antelopes, can carry anthrax.


  • Anthrax under the microscope

Pulmonary Anthrax Types

There are three main types of anthrax in humans:

  • Cutaneous anthrax:
    • Anthrax infection that occurs on the skin
    • About 95 to 99 out of 100 anthrax infections occur when injured skin is exposed to the spores.
  • Inhalational anthrax:
    • Anthrax infection of the lungs from inhaling the spores
    • Less than 1 out of 100 anthrax infections occur from inhalation of the spores.
  • Intestinal anthrax:
    • Anthrax infection of the mouth, throat, or intestine from eating the spores
    • This infection is very rare and may start as a mouth or throat infection, causing severe swelling.

Continue to Pulmonary Anthrax Transmission

Last Updated: Nov 4, 2010 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
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PubMed Pulmonary Anthrax References
  1. Cuneo BM. Inhalational anthrax. Respir Care Clin N Am. 2004 Mar;10(1):75-82. [15062228]
  2. Kalamas AG. Anthrax. Anesthesiol Clin North America. 2004 Sep;22(3):533-40, vii. [15325717]
  3. Reissman DB, Whitney EA, Taylor TH Jr, Hayslett JA, Dull PM, Arias I, Ashford DA, Bresnitz EA, Tan C, Rosenstein N, Perkins BA. One-year health assessment of adult survivors of Bacillus anthracis infection. JAMA. 2004 Apr 28;291(16):1994-8. [15113818]
  4. Wenner KA, Kenner JR. Anthrax. Dermatol Clin. 2004 Jul;22(3):247-56, v. [15207306]
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