Bacterial resistance forms - Anthrax case

We know that there are thousands of living beings on this planet, from tiny, microscopic forms to the largest, not necessarily the most resistant. Within the forms of life there is a great variety that is distinguished by its great resistance, they have been able to generate adaptation mechanisms to survive even in the most hostile environments.

Recently I have spent time reading information about these agents that are used -unfortunately- for biological weapons, being particularly surprised by the way they act in our body. But in this way I came to a case of recent use, cases very well known in the United States in 2001, when they used the bacterium Bacillus anthracis to contaminate some envelopes that were later sent to some offices. This caused the death of several people and others became seriously ill.

But, this bacterium has very particular mechanisms of infection, besides the possibility of surviving for a long time thanks to its adaptive capacity. That is why it caught my attention, I would like to share information about it, read on, I am sure that what I am going to tell you, you will be interested to know.

Pixabay/ Author: sbtlneet

This is a bacterium that is Bacillary in form, immobile, capsulated, aerobic and gram positive. I know these names may be new to some of the readers, but don't worry about it, because I will explain each one below:

  • Bacillary Form: bacteria have various forms, the form of which is almost always in the name itself. For example: those that receive the name of coco, are circular, and the bacteria that have this form incorporate that word in the name to identify them, the same with each of the bacteria according to their form, Staphylococcus aereus. The same bacterium in question, Bacillus anthracis, has the shape of a bacillus, that is, it is elongated, like a kind of rod, but microscopic.

The other forms are the vibrios, which are usually like a helix or a comma; and the other form are the Spirillae, which has a coiled shape, like a corkscrew. This is defined by their shape.

  • Aerobic and gram positive: an important point, it means that they need oxygen to perform their functions, and gram is a type of dye used to color the bacteria, it is positive if when applying the dye it turns violet or a bluish tone, this indicates that it has a thick cell wall. *A side note: there are also anaerobic and gram-negative bacteria, which is practically the opposite of what is explained above.

  • Immobile and Encapsulated: it does not have flagella, it cannot move, which confers the quality that to be able to move it is transferred by the wind (facilitating its capacity of infection via respiratory route, which is the most dangerous) or by any other route. And the part to which I want to refer in more detail is the ability to encapsulate as a mechanism of adaptation and tolerance to adverse conditions.

Pixabay/ Author: Public Domain / Bacillus anthracis

This bacterium can infect both animals and humans, and has three main routes of entry into our body, cutaneous (skin) if we have any wound, respiratory and digestive routes. Each one will have a particular symptomatology, but can be lethal if not treated in time.

But what I want to highlight in this post is not precisely the disease, which of course I will be preparing information about it soon, but rather the fact of the great resistance that this bacterium has.

Usually this bacterium is found in the soil, where it can tolerate the most adverse weather conditions, it can even remain for decades, yes, just as you read it, and it is because it has the ability to produce endospores, a form of life that is generated when it is in very adverse conditions. It is here where it can be displaced by the wind to vegetation, which is consumed by animals that eat grass and get sick to ingest them and being inside the body, become active and reproduce.

Pixabay/ Author: IMGMIDI

This is what catches my attention, there is a process called sporulation, in which bacteria perceiving that they will not survive under certain conditions, create a form of resistance that can tolerate virtually any condition.

This is due to the formation of a coating with a high calcium content, which gives it high resistance even to extreme temperatures, radiation, different pH. The cellular DNA, which is where all the information of the bacterium is stored, and gives it the ability to reproduce once it has the optimal conditions, will remain protected for as long as necessary.

It was precisely these endospores that have been used as a biological weapon, because of what was explained above, since they can remain on surfaces for years, decades, without suffering any damage, but when they are in contact, for example, with the respiratory tract of an unfortunate person who aspires them, and enter the body, they will be activated and produce their activation and subsequent reproduction, leading to a severe clinical condition fairly quickly.

Pixabay/ Author: geralt

This bacterium has particular sensitivity to penicillin, so the treatment would be very easy to carry, however, the last thing you think of when the disease occurs is Camburco, when it appears on the skin as a black lesion, or if it enters through the digestive or respiratory tract, the disease usually occurs in a similar way to others, which makes the diagnosis is late, when you think of it, as it is not something usual.

This bacterium is an example of a form of life that has adapted over the centuries or millennia to the different realities that they have had to face, and achieved an impeccable protection mechanism, which guarantees the survival of their species, which ultimately is what most living beings seek, either by adapting their environment to be tolerable or by making adaptations of their own body, as in the case in question.

I hope this topic has been very interesting for you, for me it has been, that's why I decided to share it. Questions or suggestions, welcome in the comments.

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