Bacillus anthracis: Balancing innocent research with dual-use potential

Michael J. Hudson, Wolfgang Beyer, Reinhard Böhm, Antonio Fasanella, Giuliano Garofolo, Robert Golinski, Pierre L. Goossens, Ulrike Hahn, Bassam Hallis, Annemarie King, Michèle Mock, Cesare Montecucco, Amanda Ozin, Fiorella Tonello, Stefan H.E. Kaufmann*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalShort surveypeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Anthrax Euronet, a Coordination Action of the EU 6th Framework Programme, was designed to strengthen networking activities between anthrax research groups in Europe and to harmonise protocols for testing anthrax vaccines and therapeutics. Inevitably, the project also addressed aspects of the current political issues of biosecurity and dual-use research, i.e. research into agents of important diseases of man, livestock or agriculture that could be used as agents of bioterrorism. This review provides a comprehensive overview of the biology of Bacillus anthracis, of the pathogenesis, epidemiology and diagnosis of anthrax, as well as vaccine and therapeutic intervention strategies. The proposed requirement for a code of conduct for working with dual-use agents such as the anthrax bacillus is also discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)345-364
Number of pages20
JournalInternational Journal of Medical Microbiology
Volume298
Issue number5-6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2008

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work received generous financial support from the EU FP6 Coordination Action “Anthrax Euronet” (SSPE-CT-2003-503616). We are grateful to Dr. M.L. Grossman for editorial help.

Funding Information:
There are several similar European projects continuing from the work of the Anthrax Euronet under the auspices of the “Scientific Support to Policies” and “Preparatory Action for Security Research” funding lines of the Directorate-General (DG) Research in FP6 as well as projects funded through DG SANCO's Public Health Programme (2003–2008). An expected outcome from the combined work of these projects will be a draft code of conduct for working with high-risk pathogens to be developed by scientists and biosafety experts. Such a draft document will be a key tool for informing policy makers, raising awareness amongst the key stakeholders in the research fields and providing significant input to a balanced approach to potential global biosecurity measures in the future – an approach that should emphasise the need to foster a culture of responsibility and to make biosecurity a routine part of the overarching safe procedure (biosafety) for working in microbiology laboratories and of general good laboratory practices and management.

Keywords

  • Anthrax
  • Bacillus anthracis
  • Bioterrorism
  • Diagnosis
  • Dual-use research
  • Therapeutics
  • Vaccine

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