In DepthDisease Ecology

Anthrax cousin wreaks havoc in the rainforest

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Science  04 Aug 2017:
Vol. 357, Issue 6350, pp. 438-439
DOI: 10.1126/science.357.6350.438

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A paper in Nature presents evidence that a new form of anthrax plays a huge role in the ecology of the Taï National Park in Ivory Coast. It apparently causes a large proportion of all mammalian deaths in the park and threatens to wipe out its chimpanzee population. Anthrax is caused by a bacterium named Bacillus anthracis; the deaths in the Taï rainforest are from a related species, B. cereus, a common and usually benign soil microbe that has acquired most of the genes that make B. anthracis a formidable killer. Many questions still surround this new strain, including how it is transmitted and how far it has spread.