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New Microbiol. 2010 Jan;33(1):83-6.

Severe anthrax outbreaks in Italy in 2004: considerations on factors involved in the spread of infection.

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  • 1Anthrax Reference Institute of Italy, Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale of Puglia and Basilicata, Foggia, Italy.


Anthrax is a disease of humans and animals caused by the encapsulated, spore-forming Bacillus anthracis. In Italy, anthrax is normally a sporadic disease. During the summer 2004, anthrax broke out in the Basilicata, in southern Italy, a region with a low prevalence of anthrax in which vaccination had been suspended since 1998. The disease involved several animals in few weeks and in a large area. Over 41 days, 81 cattle died, as well as 15 sheep, 9 goats, 11 horses and 8 deer. The Multiple-locus Variable-Number Tandem Repeats Analysis (MLVA) showed that all the 53 isolates belonged to the Cluster Ala, genotype 1. The results of the Single Nucleotide Repeats (SNRs) Analysis showed that 48/53 B. anthacis strains belonged to a single clonal lineage, the sub-genotype sgt - eB. Two sporadic mutants, sgt - eB,m1 and sgt - eB,m2, were isolated, only one managing to infect other herds. Factors that could have contributed to the spread of infection, such as the transmission of spores by insect vectors and the favourable weather conditions were evaluated.

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