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Anthrax Bacteria Conspire With Viruses To Stay Alive

The brute force of Bacillus anthracis, the ancient scourge that causes anthrax, can sweep through and overpower a two-ton animal in under 72 hours. But when it isn't busy claiming livestock and humans throughout the world -- up to 100,000 annually -- it resides ominously in the soil as a spore waiting for its next victim.

Researchers at Rockefeller University now reveal that this deadly bacterium isn't the only master of its fate. Its survival is directed and shaped by the DNA of bacteria-infecting viruses in what appears to be an evolutionary contract written to benefit both parties.

The research, led by Vincent A. Fischetti, head of the Laboratory of Bacterial Pathogenesis and Immunology, and Raymond Schuch, a research assistant professor in the lab, revamps the way scientists think about how pathogens exist in the environment in between outbreaks, focusing on the role viruses play during this dormant stage in the life cycle. The implications reach far and wide, from the sequencing of genomes to the recurrent and cyclical nature of disease.
 
 

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