Anthrax is a contagious, often fatal, potentially zoonotic notifiable animal disease caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis. Especially herbivorous farm and breeding animals are affected. Main sources of infection are the spores of B. anthracis ingested by the animals with the feed. Depending on the entrance pathway cutaneous, pulmonary or intestinal anthrax may occur. The disease preferentially occurs in warmer climate zones (Southeastern Europe, South America, Africa, Southeast Asia), in Germany it only occurs sporadically. Risk areas are plain tracts, which are subject to frequent flooding. Further sources of infection are raw materials of animal origin imported from other countries such as dried hides and skins of goat, sheep, cattle and horse as well as the hair, wool or pig bristles gained from these animals.
Pathogen detection is done by cultivation with subsequent identification of virulence plasmids by means of molecular biological methods.
Main tasks of the Reference Laboratory are the support of the veterinary laboratories of the federal states by confirmation tests in case of any suspicion.