By distorting a protein in the toxin that makes anthrax deadly, scientists have discovered a potentially better way to treat the disease and perhaps even to prevent it with a vaccine.
The microbe that causes anthrax, Bacillus anthracis, can release its toxin in both animals and people. Although an anthrax infection can be cured with penicillin or tetracycline, it can be lethal if not treated promptly. Antibiotics kill bacteria but don't disable toxins already unleashed in the body. For years, anthrax has been high on the list of potential biological weapons.
Scientists at Harvard Medical School in Boston set out to ambush the disease by neutralizing the anthrax toxin, which is built from three proteins made by the bacterium. The proteins are harmless individually but deadly together.