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No, really, anthrax is good for us

MagazineDecember 2003 (Vol. 14 Issue 9)No, really, anthrax is good for us

Anthrax is a deadly poison produced by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis

Anthrax is a deadly poison produced by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis. It seems to be the preferred poison of bioterrorists, and key workers throughout the United States have been vaccinated against an anthrax attack.

No wonder the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have classified it as a Class A agent, a substance that poses the greatest possible threat to public health.

But doctors (those crazy, crazy guys) say we've all got anthrax wrong. Apparently, it can be good for us, if only we knew how.

It's all to do with the way anthrax disarms our immune system. But, say doctors, sometimes our immune system sends out the wrong signals. So, if anthrax could be used to block these bad signals, it could become the perfect therapeutic agent in autoimmune diseases.

Problem is, who's going to test it? (Nature, 2003; 424: 329-34).

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