Issue 2

Journal for Veterinary Medicine, Biotechnology and Biosafety

Volume 2, Issue 2, July 2016, Pages 27–31

ISSN 2411-3174 (print version) ISSN 2411-0388 (online version)

Unearthing Anthrax — application of genotyping for exploring a cryptic life cycle of Bacillus anthracis in soil

Braun P., von Buttlar H., Woelfel R., Grass G.

Bundeswehr Institute of Microbiology, Munich, Germany, e-mail:

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Citation for print version: Braun, P., von Buttlar, H., Woelfel, R., Grass, G. (2016) ‘Unearthing Anthrax — application of genotyping for exploring a cryptic life cycle of Bacillus anthracis in soil’, Journal for Veterinary Medicine, Biotechnology and Biosafety, 2(2), pp. 27–31.

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Citation for online version: Braun, P., von Buttlar, H., Woelfel, R., Grass, G. (2016) ‘Unearthing Anthrax — application of genotyping for exploring a cryptic life cycle of Bacillus anthracis in soil’, Journal for Veterinary Medicine, Biotechnology and Biosafety. [Online] 2(2), pp. 27–31. Available at:

Summary. Bacillus anthracis, the etiological agent of the zoonotic disease anthrax is a very monomorphic species. Typically, the epidemiology of anthrax outbreaks is investigated employing progressive hierarchical resolving assays using nucleic acids (PHRANA). For resolution of relationships of B. anthracis originating from a single animal this approach is not suited. In order to close this gap PHRANA can be amended with whole genome sequencing data and subsequent analysis of Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs). Doing so, it was possible to resolve the genetic diversity of isolates from anthrax outbreaks in Sweden, Italy as well as of drug use-related infections in Europe. The Swedish outbreak was confined to a short time-period whereas the Italian anthrax foci were revisited for analysis ten years after the host animals have died. Data from the study in Italy contrast with the established view concerning a strict resting stage of B. anthracis in soil. This review discusses the plausibility that B. anthracis multiplies in a limited soil-borne life cycle after the spores have diffused to near the surface where the bacteria encounter favorable conditions in non-animal hosts or rhizosphere.

Keywords: Bacillus anthracis, anthrax, soil, genotyping, life cycle


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