Discovery Guides Areas


Anthrax (Bacillus anthracis)
(Released November 2001)

  by Roberta A. Gardner  


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Antibody: A protein synthesized by the immune system in response to an antigen.

Antigen: A large foreign molecule, such as a bacterial cell or a toxin, that can provoke an immune response.

Bacteremia: The presence of bacteria in the bloodstream.

Ciprofloxacin: An antibacterial agent of the fluoroquinolone group.

Cytokines: Small proteins released from human cells as a response to bacterial infection. They send signals that affect interactions between cells in the immune response, and induce the proliferaton of T-cells responsible for cellular immunity. Undesirable effects of cytokine activity include fever, pain, and inflammation.

Cytosol: The fluid portion of the cytoplasm, which is the part of the cell outside the nucleus.

Doxycycline: An antibacterial agent of the family of 6-deoxy-tetracyclines.

Edema: An abnormal accumulation of fluid.

Edema factor (EF): The portion of the anthrax toxin which produces edema when combined with protective antigen.

Endospore: A resting structure formed inside some bacteria that is resistant to unfavorable environmental conditions.

Eschar: A necrotic mass of tissue.

Exotoxins: Poisons produced by bacteria that leave the cell and enter the area around the cell.

Germinate: To grow from a spore.

Gram-positive: Bacteria that keep the color of the primary stain when stained with the Gram stain. All Gram-positive bacteria have similar cell walls, a feature that helps to dictate which antibiotics they are susceptible to.

Immobilized: The state of a chemical protein or substance that is bound, without substantial change in its structure, to an insoluble solid, thus rendered insoluble in the contacting liquid.

Immunoaffinity: A column chromatography method using antibody-antigen reactions to purify or detect substances.

Lethal factor (LF): A virulence factor of anthrax toxin which, when combined with protective antigen, results in death of the host.

Lyses: Destruction of cells by breakdown of the cell walls.

Macrophages: Large phagocytes (ameboid cells that engulf foreign material) of the reticuloendothelial system.

Microbiologist: A person who studies microorganisms, including protozoa, fungi, bacteria and viruses.

Mitogen-activated protein kinase kinases: A mitogen is a compound that stimulates cells to undergo mitosis. A protein kinase is an enzyme that exerts regulatory efffects on growth by phosphorylating a protein.

Pathogen: A disease-producing organism.

Phage typing: A method of identifying bacteria using specific strains of Bacteriophages (viruses that attack bacteria).

Phagocytosis: The act of engulfing large, solid objects such as bacteria by cells, and delivery of these objects to digestive vacuoles in specialized cells such as macrophages and neutrophiles.

Polymerase chain reaction (PCR): A technique for copying and amplifying the complementary strands of a target deoxyribonucleic acid molecule.

Protective antigen (PA): A component of the anthrax toxin that combines with lethal factor and edema factor to mediate their entry into the cell.

Refractile: Deflecting light from a straight path.

Septicemia: Multiplication of the bacteria in the bloodstream, producing a powerful toxin.

Sporangium: A thick case containing one or more asexual spores.

Sporicides: Chemicals that kill endospores.

Systemic: An infection throughout the body.

Toxemia: A condition in which the blood contains toxic substances either of microbial origin or as by-products of abnormal protein metabolism.

Translocates: Moves water, mineral salts and organic substances from one part of a bacterial cell to another.

Vegetative form: Having nutritive or growth functions, as opposed to reproductive functions.

Zoonosis: A disease occurring primarily in wild and domestic animals that can be transmitted to humans.