Anthrax Home > Inhalation Anthrax

Inhalation anthrax is an uncommon type of anthrax, a potentially fatal disease caused by infection with Bacillus anthracis bacteria. Early symptoms may include fever, nausea, vomiting, aches, and fatigue. If diagnosed early, this type of anthrax may be treated successfully with antibiotics; however, most infected people mistake the symptoms for less serious illnesses and don't seek treatment until more serious symptoms develop, such as labored breathing.

What Is Inhalation Anthrax?

Anthrax is a serious disease caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis. Inhalation anthrax is an uncommon type of anthrax caused by breathing in the anthrax bacteria or spores. Inhalation anthrax is also known as:
 
  • Pulmonary anthrax
  • Pneumonic anthrax
  • Respiratory anthrax.
     

Inhalation Anthrax Infection

When the Bacillus anthracis bacteria or spores are inhaled, they germinate and the bacterial cells infect the lungs. The cells then spread to the lymph nodes in the chest. As the anthrax bacteria grow, they produce two kinds of deadly toxins.
 
One of these toxins (known as edema factor) can contribute to a fatal build-up of fluid in the cavity surrounding the lungs. It also can inhibit some of the body's immune functions. Another toxin (known as lethal factor) disrupts a key molecular switch that regulates the cell's functions. Lethal factor can kill infected cells or prevent them from working properly.
 

What Are the Symptoms?

Inhalation anthrax symptoms usually appear 1 to 7 days after exposure, but they may first appear more than a month later.
 
Common early symptoms of inhalation anthrax are often similar to those seen with the flu and may include:
 
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Aches
  • Fatigue.
     
Inhalation anthrax symptoms can progress to:
 
  • Labored breathing
  • Shock
  • Death.
     
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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