How to test for Anthrax?

April 21, 2010

Anthrax is caused when you come in direct contact with anthrax spores. These spores are caused by bacteria and remain in the soil, until they find a host. The host could be a domestic or wild animal such as camels, goats, horses, sheep or cattle. Infection could also occur through the hides or meat of infected animals. In rare cases, drums made from skins of infected animals have been known to cause anthrax.

Anthrax usually occurs seasonally and in people who dress game animals or handle animal fur, wool or skins. People who work with livestock, in veterinary medicine and in laboratories working with anthrax, are also at risk and could contract the virus.

There are three types of anthrax, each with its specific symptoms. Symptoms usually show up within a week of exposure to the source of infection. Cutaneous anthrax enters through a sore or cut on the skin, and is characterized by an itchy bump (like an insect bite) which becomes a painless sore having a black centre. Sometimes, you may also have a swelling in the surrounding lymph glands.

Gastrointestinal anthrax occurs through eating the meat of the infected animals. Symptoms are loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting (sometimes with blood in it), diarrhea (with blood), sore throat and neck, and difficulty in swallowing.

Pulmonary anthrax is caused by inhaling anthrax spores. This is the most dangerous form of anthrax and is usually fatal. The symptoms are just like that of flu. They include, muscle ache, fatigue, sore throat, mild fever and chest discomfort. The fever soon becomes very high, there is trouble in breathing, meningitis may occur, and the patient may go into shock.

If you have been exposed to livestock, consult your doctor to rule out other causes for your symptoms. In cutaneous anthrax, a sample fluid from a suspected sore or a small piece of tissue would be taken from your body and be tested in the lab.

A small quantity of blood will be drawn with the help of a syringe and sent to the lab to test for anthrax bacteria. The CT scan and X- ray would also provide enough information to diagnose pulmonary anthrax.

An endoscopy may be ordered if your doctor suspects intestinal anthrax, or you may also have to get your stool tested. Your doctor will examine your intestines and throat with an endoscope which is a flexible, thin tube with a tiny camera and light attached to its tip.

For anthrax meningitis, you may have to undergo a lumbar puncture (spinal tap). A small amount of spinal fluid will be withdrawn with a needle and tested in a lab culture.

Researchers have also come out with new tests such as a capsule stain test or a "phage test" (fluorescent antibody test).

Submitted by M T on April 21, 2010 at 12:38

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