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Focus on anthrax

Recent events have confirmed that bioterrorism is no longer a threat but a reality. To provide wide-ranging access to the latest scientific information about anthrax and other potential bioweapons, Nature has put together a special online focus on this issue. This focus is made up of two research papers on anthrax toxin, as well as a collection of research, news and feature articles from our electronic archive.

The causative agent of the anthrax disease, the bacterium Bacillus anthracis, secretes a toxin made up of three proteins: protective antigen (PA), oedema factor (OF) and lethal factor (LF). PA binds to cell-surface receptors on the host's cell membranes. After being cleaved by a protease, PA binds to the two toxic enzymes, OF and LA, and mediates their transportation into the cytosol where they exert their pathogenic effects.

In addition to these Nature papers, this special focus also includes research from October's issue of Nature Biotechnology. Mourez et al. describe the isolation of a synthetic peptide that blocks the action of anthrax toxin in an animal model. These research papers are complimented by a news feature which looks at the threat of bioterrorism and researchers' attempts to counter it, and a collection of research, news and opinion articles from our archive.

Nature's news and science-writing teams will continue to inform and explain the science behind current events as and when it happens, and this page will be updated accordingly.

Featured articles

Crystal structure of the anthrax lethal factor
ANDREW D. PANNIFER, THIANG YIAN WONG, ROBERT SCHWARZENBACHER, MARTIN RENATUS, CARLO PETOSA, JADWIGA BIENKOWSKA, D. BORDEN LACY, R. JOHN COLLIER, SUKJOON PARK, STEPHEN H. LEPPLA, PHILIP HANNA & ROBERT C. LIDDINGTON
Nature 414, 229-233 (8 November 2001)
| First Paragraph | Full Text | PDF (306 K) | Supplementary Information|

Identification of the cellular receptor for anthrax toxin
KENNETH A. BRADLEY, JEREMY MOGRIDGE, MICHAEL MOUREZ, R. JOHN COLLIER & JOHN A. T. YOUNG
Nature 414, 225-229 (8 November 2001)
| First Paragraph | Full Text | PDF (325 K) |


Anthrax action shapes upAnthrax exposed and killed

Designing a polyvalent inhibitor of anthrax toxin
MICHAEL MOUREZ, RAVI S. KANE, JEREMY MOGRIDGE, STEVE METALLO, PASCAL DESCHATELETS, BRET R. SELLMAN, GEORGE M. WHITESIDES & R. JOHN COLLIER
Nature Biotechnology 19, 958–961 (October 2001)
| Abstract | Full Text | PDF |

Genomics and future biological weapons: the need for preventive action by the biomedical community
C M FRASER & M R DANDO
Published online: Nature Genetics 22 October 2001, DOI:10.1038/ng763
| Full Text | PDF |

News & Views

Medicine: Virus deals anthrax a killer blow
M. J. ROSOVITZ & STEPHEN H. LEPPLA
The threat of antibiotic-resistant bacteria is driving researchers to think up ever more clever ways to tackle infections. An enzyme from a bacterium-killing virus may prove effective against anthrax infections.
Nature 418, 825-826 (22 August 2002)
| Full Text | PDF (108 K) |

Related news

Anthrax case provokes doubt among experts
JONATHAN KNIGHT & ERIKA CHECK
Nature 418, 808 (22 August 2002)
| Full Text | PDF (131 K) |

Microbiology: Tackling anthrax
ARTHUR M. FRIEDLANDER
Antibiotic development is the first priority in responding to terrorist use of anthrax. But structural studies offer new leads in the hunt for more effective anti-toxin treatments.
Nature 414, 160-161 (8 November 2001)
| Full Text | PDF (97 K) |

Bioterrorism threat becomes reality
TINKER READY
Nature Medicine 7, 1167 (November 2001)
| Full Text | PDF (166 K) |

Smallpox vaccine development quickened
KAREN BIRMINGHAM & GEORGINA KENYON
Nature Medicine 7, 1167 (November 2001)
| Full Text | PDF (166 K) |

The bugs of war
CARINA DENNIS
Could our knowledge of microbial genomics and skill in genetic engineering be used to create 'enhanced' bioweapons? Carina Dennis assesses the threat, and the efforts to counter it.
Nature 411, 232–235 (17 May 2001)
| Full Text | PDF (457 K) |

Genetic sleuths rush to identify anthrax strains in mail attacks
REX DALTON
Nature 413, 657–658 (18 October 2001)
| Full Text | PDF (166 K) |

Bioweapons treaty under threat
DECLAN BUTLER
Nature 413, 657 (18 October 2001)
| Full Text | PDF (166 K) |

Gaps remain in Japan's biodefences
DAVID CYRANOSKI
Nature 413, 658 (18 October 2001)
| Full Text | PDF (95 K) |

Senators call for biodefence boost
JONATHAN KNIGHT
Nature 413, 441 (4 October 2001)
| Full Text | PDF (98 K) |

Business News
US rejects stronger bioweapons treaty
EMMA DOREY
Nature Biotechnology 19, 793 (September 2001)
| Full Text | PDF |

Pathogen threat spurs research initiatives
REX DALTON
Nature 411, 727 (14 June 2001)
| Full Text | PDF (204 K) |

Shock as labs miss anthrax samples
Nature 411, 514–515 (31 May 2001)
| Full Text | PDF (66 K) |

Smallpox stocks: new focus for research?
ALAN DOVE
Nature Medicine 5, 474 (May 1999)
| Full Text | PDF |

Adjusting FDA policies to address bioterrorist threat
JEFFREY L. FOX
Nature Biotechnology 17, 323–324 (April 1999)
| Full Text | PDF |

Iraq crisis spurs new bioweapons moves
DAVID DICKSON
Lack of provision in the Biological Weapons Convention for monitoring and verifying compliance has long been a worry. But negotiations for such provision have been given new momentum by recent events in Iraq.
Nature 391, 831 (26 February 1998)
| Full Text | PDF (189 K) |

Letters to Nature

A bacteriolytic agent that detects and kills Bacillus anthracis
RAYMOND SCHUCH, DANIEL NELSON & VINCENT A. FISCHETTI
Nature 418, 884-889 (22 August 2002)
| Full Text | PDF (1046 K) |

Related research

A dominant-negative therapy for anthrax
STEPHEN H. LEPPLA
Nature Medicine 7, 659 - 660 (June 2001)
| Full Text | PDF |

Related commentary and opinion

A call to arms
Biologists should involve themselves in the debate over biological weapons — both to ensure that we have the means to counter the threats that such weapons pose and to help keep those threats in perspective.
Nature 411, 223 (17 May 2001)
| Full Text | PDF (55 K) |

Lessons from Iraq on bioweapons
CHRISTIAN SEELOS
There are strong political pressures to relax the scrutiny of suspected biological weapons activity in Iraq. But the experience of United Nations inspectors in the country points to significant dangers in such a policy.
Nature 398, 187–188 (18 March 1999)
| Full Text | PDF (187 K) |

Related links

CDC anthrax information pages

CNN's anthrax briefing



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