Bacillus anthracis is an aerobic spore-forming bacterium that causes disease in humans and animals. The bacteria is found in two forms: cutaneous anthrax and inhalation anthrax. Cutaneous anthrax is an infection of the skin caused by direct contact with the bacterium. Inhalation or respiratory anthrax is an infectious disease caused by inhaling the spores of the bacterium. While anthrax commonly affects hoofed animals such as sheep and goats, humans may acquire this disease as well. Anthrax is a potential agent for use as a biological weapon or bio-terrorism.
Review Date 5/18/2017
Updated by: Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.