Volume 20, Number 9—September 2014
Etymologia: Bacillus anthracis
A large, gram-positive, rod (bacillus), Bacillus anthracis is the causative agent of anthrax (Greek for “coal”), named for the black lesions of cutaneous anthrax. In 1850, Rayer and Davaine discovered the rods in the blood of anthrax-infected sheep, setting the stage for Koch to link the disease to the bacterium in 1876, after he performed a series of experiments that fulfilled what came to be known as Koch’s postulates. This was among the first times a microorganism was conclusively linked with a specific disease.
- Koch R. The etiology of anthrax, based on the life history of Bacillus anthracis [in German]. Beiträge zur Biologie der Pflanzen. 1876;2:277–310.
- Martin GJ, Friedlander AM. Bacillus anthracis (anthrax). In: Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett’s principles and practice of infectious diseases. Mandell GL, Bennett JE, Dolin R, editors. 7th ed. Philadelphia: Elsevier; 2010. p. 2715–25.
- Morens DM. Characterizing a “new” disease: epizootic and epidemic anthrax, 1769–1780. Am J Public Health. 2003;93:886–93 and .
- Schultz MG. Robert Koch [photo quiz]. Emerg Infect Dis. 2011;17:548–9 .