Bacillus Infection And Immunity

Brian W McBride and Peter CB Turnbull, Centre for Applied Microbiology and Research, Porton Down, UK

Copyright © 1998 Elsevier Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

The best known member of the genus Bacillus, Bacillus anthracis, the causative agent of anthrax, was a major scourge for humans and animals from antiquity to just a few decades ago. The extensive history associated with anthrax dating back to about 1250 bc has been well reviewed. It features in classical writings, and several pandemics evidently occurred in Europe and Russia from medieval times to the mid-1800s. By the time it was realized at the end of the nineteenth century that one agent was responsible for several manifestations, the disease had become known by a wide variety of names, such as black bane, malignant carbuncle, rag picker's disease, Siberian plague, woolsorter's disease and numerous equivalents in other languages. It was with anthrax that Koch established his famous postulates in 1876, and history's first bacterial vaccines were against anthrax.

Other members of the genus only began to feature in literature in the early part of the twentieth century and, because of the extreme diversity of the species comprising it, organization of the taxonomy and classification within the genus has only developed very slowly and remains a challenge for today's taxonomists. For most practical purposes, the classification and identification system laid down by Gordon and colleagues in 1973 continues to be the most helpful for the principal species encountered in the context of infection and immunity.

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