Treatment of Anthrax Infection
Doctors have several options for treating patients with anthrax, including antibiotics and antitoxin. Patients with serious cases of anthrax need to be hospitalized. They may require aggressive treatment, such as continuous fluid drainage and help breathing through mechanical ventilation.
For people who have been exposed to anthrax but do not yet have symptoms, certain antibiotics can be used to prevent illness from developing.
All types of anthrax infection can be treated with antibiotics, including intravenous antibiotics (medicine given through the vein). If someone has symptoms of anthrax, it’s important to get medical care as quickly as possible to have the best chances of a full recovery. Doctors will select antibiotics that are best for treating anthrax and that are best for the patient based on their medical history.
When anthrax spores get inside the body, they can be “activated.” When they become active, anthrax bacteria can multiply, spread out in the body, and produce toxins—or poisons. Anthrax toxins in the body cause severe illness.
After anthrax toxins have been released in the body, one possible treatment is antitoxin. Antitoxins target anthrax toxins in the body. Doctors must use antitoxin together with other treatment options.
Currently, there are a few types of antitoxins that can be used for treating anthrax.
Prevention and Treatment Recommendations
- Clinical Framework and Medical Countermeasure Use During an Anthrax Mass-Casualty Incident: CDC Recommendations (2015) pdf icon[PDF – 1.24MB]
- Emergency Use Instructions (EUIs) for Antibiotic Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) of Anthrax
- Antimicrobial Treatment for Systemic Anthrax: Analysis of Cases from 1945 to 2014 Identified Through a Systematic Literature Review (2015)external icon
- Antitoxin Treatment of Inhalation Anthrax: A Systematic Review (2015)external icon
- National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System: Case Definitions (2018)
- Prevention and Treatment of Anthrax in Adults (2014): Results of CDC Expert Panels
- EID Journal (2014): Special Considerations for Pregnant and Postpartum Women
- Pediatric Anthrax Management (2014): Executive Summaryexternal icon Clinical Reportexternal icon
- CDC Guidance (2013): Anthrax Vaccine Adsorbed (AVA) Post-Exposure Prioritization pdf icon[PDF – 236KB]
- Medscape Commentaries