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What is anthrax?

Anthrax screening and testing

Guidelines to protect employees from anthrax biological threat

Infection Control in Hospitals

Anthrax Screening


Anthrax is a disease caused by Bacillus anthracis, a large (1-1.5 x 3-5um) Gram positive bacillus that forms subterminal spores (1 x 1.5um). The causal organism of anthrax, Bacillus anthracis, is a common inhabitant of soils worldwide, especially in areas where farm animals have become infected.

Transmission of anthrax occurs by either inhalation of spores causing pulmonary infections, physical contact with spores usually in contaminated soil or animal tissues causing cutaneous lesions, or, in rare occasions, by consumption of contaminated meat or water. Of these modes of transmission, inhalation is the most deadly, with mortality rates of over 85 percent. Historically, only 18 cases were reported in the United States between 1900 and 1978. No cases were reported in the United States from 1978 until this last month's terrorist acts. An accidental release of anthrax spores from a biowarfare facility in the former Soviet Union in 1979 resulted in at least 79 cases and 68 deaths. It has been estimated that it takes an exposure of 2,500 to 55,000 spores to kill 50% (LD50) of the exposed individuals. Disease onset, in the Soviet Union experience, occurred 2 to 43 days after exposure. Initial symptoms are non-specific, lasting from a few hours to a few days, and include fever, headache, vomiting, chills, weakness, and abdominal and chest pains. The second stage, sometimes following a brief remission is characterized by sudden fever, shortness of breath (dyspnea), perspiration (diaphoresis), shock, dilerium, turning blue (cyanosis) usually followed by death, which can occur within hours. On October 12, 2001, the CDC issued a Health Advisory on how to handle anthrax and other biological agent threats. If site conditions are present as described in the advisory, bulk samples that meet the CDC definition of a suspicious sample should strictly follow the CDC guidelines.

Air Impaction onto blood agar or nutrient agar plates via a single-stage (400 hole) or multiple-stage sampler at 28.3 liters/minute for 2 to 10 minutes. Surface Surface samples can be collected using conventional swab techniques. Bulk Bulk or dust samples that meet the CDC definition of a suspicious sample should not be submitted to standard commercial microbial laboratories that offer this analysis and must strictly follow CDC guidelines. Bulk or dust samples that do not meet the CDC definition of a suspicious sample can be submitted to standard commercial laboratories that offer this analysis. These samples should be double bagged in Ziploc bags or placed into a sealed Tupperware-like container or shatterproof plastic containers.

Following are minimum packing requirements established by the CDC for shipment of diagnostic specimens.

40 CFR Part 72.2 Transportation of diagnostic specimens, biological products, and other materials; minimum packaging requirements. ".................material is packaged to withstand leakage of contents, shocks, pressure changes, and other conditions incident to ordinary handling in transportation."

Samples are processed and then incubated at 35 degrees Celcius for 18-24 hours and examined for typical B. anthracis colonies. Suspect colonies are further characterized via protocols outlined by the CDC. Colonies meeting the CDC requirements are reported as Presumptive Positive. Presumptive Positive organisms will be confirmed using Biolog's Biological Warfare identification system. Presumptive results will be reported 1-2 days subsequent to sample receipt. Confirmatory results will be available in approximately 2-4 days.

It is beyond the scope of this document to address issues associated with protective measures necessary for sample collection.

Due to recent terrorist acts involving anthrax a tremendous need has emerged for the analyses of B. anthracis. BTox Analytical Laboratories, a new division of Aerotech Laboratories has been established to address the overwhelming requests for environmental monitoring for B. anthracis. It is imperative to note that samples meeting the CDC criteria as suspicious could represent criminal evidence and should not be submitted to BTox Analytical Laboratories. These samples must be handled by the guidelines established by the CDC. This specifically includes powders that have been received in the mail or other suspicious routes.

Samples should be submitted to BTox Analytical Laboratories, A Division of Aerotech Laboratories, Inc., 1501 W. Knudsen Dr., Phoenix, Arizona, 85027. BTox Analytical Laboratories must be clearly identified on the outside of all packages. Please do not ship samples for other tests in the same container as those for B. anthracis screening. Samples for other tests that are shipped with samples to be analyzed for B. anthracis will not be processed and will be destroyed. BTox will begin accepting samples on October 23, 2001 and analyses is slated to begin October 25 or 26, 2001. For the complete sampling protocol please call 800-651-4802 or email

Anthrax Sampling Protocol Request


1. Basic Laboratory Protocols for the Presumptive Identification of Bacillus anthracis, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, March 18, 2001. 2. Federal Register, Vol. 45, No. 141-Monday, July 21, 10980. Part 72-Interstate Shipment of Etiologic Agents. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Revised March 9, 1995. 3. Gilchrist, Mary J. R., McKinney, W. Paul, Miller, J. Michael, and Weissfeld, Alice S., (2000), Laboratory Safety, Management, and Diagnosis of Biological Agents Associated with Bioterrorism, ASM Cumitech 33.

Microbial Fact #1

Chlamydia pneumoniae is a bacteria that was recognized in 1983 as a respiratory pathogen, after isolation from a college student with pharyngitis. Transmission happens person-to-person via respiratory secretions.

Gliocladium sp. occurs in soil or decaying plant matter as parasites of other fungi. Reported to be allergenic. Gliocladium sp. is structurally similar to Penicillium sp. but with conidia collecting in wet rather than dry masses.

* IAQ Workshop-Best Value in the IAQ Market October 25th & 26th, November 8th & 9th, November 29th & 30th, December 13th & 14th, January 10th & 11th, January 24th & 25th, and February 7th & 8th are SOLD OUT. Next available workshops February 21st & 22nd and March 7th & 8th. Register today space is very limited. "Strategies for Conducting Meaningful Microbial Investigations," presented by the American Indoor Air Quality Council (largest nonprofit IAQ organization), Earn 1.6 CEMs or 2.0 CMs from ABIH, Location Phoenix, Arizona. E-mail


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