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Bacillus anthracis diversity in the Far East of Russia
  1. V B Turcutyucov1,
  2. L E Gorcovenko2,
  3. A V Olenov3,
  4. V P Borzov3,
  5. A V Martynova4
  1. 1Federal Epidemiology Department, Vladivostok State Medical University
  2. 2Centre of Epidemiological Surveillance, Department of Dangerous Infections
  3. 3Primorski Antiplaque Institute of the Public Health Ministry
  4. 4Microbiology Department, Vladivostok State Medical University; anilina{at}freemail.ru

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    Though anthrax has been a cause of death in Russia, especially in regions with highly developed cattle breeding, the Russian Far East has not been considered an area with a high morbidity from the disease. But this region has a recorded history of periodic anthrax epidemics causing widespread disease among wild and domestic animals.

    The first inhabitants appeared in the Far East of Russia at the end of the 19th century. The first outbreak of anthrax was recorded in 1904 in Primorski (the southern part of the Russian Far East) when 30 people died from this disease in two weeks. In 1919 only one case of the disease was recorded but then, periodically, new cases were recorded every five years.1 The first cases of anthrax at the beginning of the 20th century were found in those working in industries connected with cattle, and especially in the tanneries of the first colonists.

    The largest outbreak of anthrax was recorded in the territory in the 1930s,2 and there was a 16.6% morbidity for all patients with diagnosed anthrax. In 1977, 15 cases of anthrax were recorded with one lethal case in each of three villages located distantly from each other. In 1979, 12 cases were recorded and two people died; some more cases of anthrax were recorded, but there were no deaths. All patients had the pulmonary form of anthrax with severe clinical symptoms despite effective and adequate treatment.

    From 1930 cases of anthrax in domestic and wild animals have been recorded (see fig 1). Anthrax is associated with special soil conditions such as having a humus content of more than 1% (from 2%– 4%), with the humus layer more than 0.15–0.3 metres, pH 4–7, and high moisture even in the dry months (usually August or September).

    So, despite the worldwide threat of anthrax bioterrorism, anthrax should also be investigated at the local level. It is necessary to improve recording of such a dangerous infection, and only strict public health policy can prevent its spread throughout the world.

    Figure 1

    Number of cases of anthrax in domestic and wild animals in the Primorski Region, 1930–81.

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