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Sunday, May 9, 2021

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SDSU professor Dr. Kelly Doran and co-author Dr. Nina van Sorge SDSU professor Dr. Kelly Doran and co-author Dr. Nina van Sorge

SDSU Researchers Discover Critical Link in Understanding Why Anthrax Exposure is so Dangerous

Anthrax Bacteria Tricks Brain into Thinking It’s Safe, Causing Anthrax Meningitis
By Gina Speciale

Researchers at San Diego State University have discovered a critical link in understanding the deadly bioterrorism agent anthrax.  Researchers are the first to prove that anthrax bacteria has the ability to directly penetrate the blood-brain barrier, a barrier which normally functions to keep dangerous viruses and bacteria from entering the brain.

"This discovery helps us explain why anthrax exposure is so deadly," said SDSU microbiologist and lead researcher Kelly Doran.  "Toxins secreted by the bacterium interfere with our internal surveillance system, allowing the organism to escape the immune system, and in many cases enter the brain to cause meningitis."

Anthrax meningitis is the main neurological complication of bacterial anthrax infection and is associated with a fatality rate approaching 100 percent.  Until this point, there was no research to explain the connection between anthrax and the brain disease meningitis.

"Now that we understand how anthrax is able to trick the brain into thinking it’s a safe intruder, we can work to develop therapies that will interfere with this process and hopefully prevent this deadly infection," Doran said.

The research, performed in collaboration with biologists from the University of California at San Diego was funded by the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

The article will be published this month by The Public Library of Science and can be read online at