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Answering crucial questions about anthrax exposure
Date:8/15/2013

Although studies with animals at other institutions have looked at anthrax, the data are limited and usually involved vaccine testing and not exposure amounts for infection. Gleaning information from accidental exposures in isolated cases is difficult and not often helpful. So, Toth and Gundlapalli gathered what useful information from animal studies reported in the medical literature and then combined it with data from an accidental exposure at a Soviet Union bioterrorism plant that occurred in the city of Sverdlovsk, Russia, in 1979.

Gundlapalli, who as a postdoctoral fellow at the U of U helped build a bioterrorism surveillance system for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, and Damon J.A. Toth, Ph.D., a mathematician and assistant professor of internal medicine at the U of U, are co-first authors on the study.

Anthrax is found on the skin of dead animals and its spores can live thousands of years. People can become infected when they are in close proximity to anthrax, such as a farmworker who might be exposed to a dead animal and inhales spores of the bacteria. But it also can be manufactured in laboratories and spread in other ways, such as when people opened letters containing anthrax or when the spores are put into an aerosol and dispersed over large areas by wind currents.

Previous studies at other institutions had provided widely varying estimates of the chance of becoming infected with anthrax with low dose exposure. For example, one model based on animal data estimated a 1 percent chance of becoming infected from inhaling one spore, while another study estimated that healthy humans would have virtually no chance of becoming infected after inhaling up to 600 spores. But analyzing the results from a better documented, non-human primate study at another institution, in combination with a carefully constructed mathematical model appropriate for humans, Toth estimated that the number of spores required for a 1 percent cha
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Contact: Phil Sahm
phil.sahm@hsc.utah.edu
801-581-2517
University of Utah Health Sciences
Source:Eurekalert

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