Physiological responses to a single low‐dose of bacillus anthracis spores in the rabbit model of inhalational anthrax

Sarah C. Taft, Tonya L. Nichols, Stephanie A. Hines, Roy E. Barnewall, Gregory V. Stark, Jason E. Comer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Credible dose–response relationships are needed to more accurately assess the risk posed by exposure to low‐level Bacillus anthracis contamination during or following a release. To begin to fill this knowledge gap, New Zealand White rabbits were implanted with D70‐PCT telemetry transmitters and subsequently aerosol challenged with average inhaled doses of 2.86 x 102 to 2.75 x 105 colony forming units (CFU) of B. anthracis spores. Rabbits exposed to a single inhaled dose at or above 2.54 × 104 CFU succumbed with dose‐dependent time to death. Death was associated with increases above baseline in heart rate, respiration rate, and body temperature and all rabbits that died exhibited bacteremia at some point prior to death. Rabbits that inhaled doses of 2.06 × 103 CFU or lower survived to the end of the study and showed no or minimal adverse changes in the measured physiological responses in response to the challenge. Moreover, no bacteremia nor toxemia were observed in rabbits that survived to the end of the study. Overall, the data indicate that challenge doses of B. anthracis below the level sufficient to establish systemic infection do not produce observable physiological responses; however, doses that triggered a response resulted in death.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number461
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2020


  • Anthrax
  • Bacillus anthracis
  • Dose–response
  • Low‐dose
  • Physiological response

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases


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