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Anthrax blood test

Anthrax serology test; Antibody test for anthrax; Serologic test for B anthracis

The anthrax blood test looks for antibodies against Bacillus anthracis, the bacteria that cause anthrax.

How the Test is Performed

A blood sample is needed.

How to Prepare for the Test

There is no special preparation.

How the Test will Feel

When the needle is inserted to draw blood, some people feel moderate pain. Others feel only a prick or stinging. Afterward, there may be some throbbing or slight bruising. This soon goes away.

Why the Test is Performed

This test may be performed when the health care provider suspects you have anthrax infection.

Normal Results

A normal result means no antibodies to the anthrax bacteria were seen in your blood sample. However, during the early stages of infection, your body may only produce a few antibodies, which the blood test may miss. The test may need to be repeated in 10 days to 2 weeks.

Normal value ranges may vary slightly among different laboratories. Some labs use different measurements or test different samples. Talk to your doctor about the meaning of your specific test results.

What Abnormal Results Mean

An abnormal result means antibodies to B anthracis have been detected and you may have anthrax disease. But, some people come in contact with the bacteria and do not develop the disease.

To determine if you have a current infection, your provider will look for an increase in the antibody count after a few weeks.

Risks

There is very little risk involved with having your blood taken. Veins and arteries vary in size from one person to another and from one side of the body to the other. Obtaining a blood sample from some people may be more difficult than from others.

Other risks associated with having blood drawn are slight, but may include:

  • Excessive bleeding
  • Fainting or feeling lightheaded
  • Hematoma (blood accumulating under the skin)
  • Infection (a slight risk any time the skin is broken)

Considerations

The best test for diagnosing anthrax is a culture of affected tissue or blood.

References

Hall GS, Woods GL. Medical bacteriology. In: McPherson RA, Pincus MR, eds. Henry's Clinical Diagnosis and Management by Laboratory Methods. 22nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 57.

Martin GJ, Friedlander AM. Bacillus anthracis (anthrax). In: Bennett JE, Dolin R, Blaser MJ, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 209.

    • Blood test

      Blood test - illustration

      Blood is drawn from a vein (venipuncture), usually from the inside of the elbow or the back of the hand. A needle is inserted into the vein, and the blood is collected in an air-tight vial or a syringe. Preparation may vary depending on the specific test.

      Blood test

      illustration

    • Bacillus anthracis

      Bacillus anthracis - illustration

      Bacillus anthracis is an aerobic spore-forming bacterium that causes disease in humans and animals. The bacteria is found in two forms: cutaneous anthrax and inhalation anthrax. Cutaneous anthrax is an infection of the skin caused by direct contact with the bacterium. Inhalation or respiratory anthrax is an infectious disease caused by inhaling the spores of the bacterium. While anthrax commonly affects hoofed animals such as sheep and goats, humans may acquire this disease as well. Anthrax is a potential agent for use as a biological weapon or bio-terrorism. Bacillus anthracis

      Bacillus anthracis

      illustration

      • Blood test

        Blood test - illustration

        Blood is drawn from a vein (venipuncture), usually from the inside of the elbow or the back of the hand. A needle is inserted into the vein, and the blood is collected in an air-tight vial or a syringe. Preparation may vary depending on the specific test.

        Blood test

        illustration

      • Bacillus anthracis

        Bacillus anthracis - illustration

        Bacillus anthracis is an aerobic spore-forming bacterium that causes disease in humans and animals. The bacteria is found in two forms: cutaneous anthrax and inhalation anthrax. Cutaneous anthrax is an infection of the skin caused by direct contact with the bacterium. Inhalation or respiratory anthrax is an infectious disease caused by inhaling the spores of the bacterium. While anthrax commonly affects hoofed animals such as sheep and goats, humans may acquire this disease as well. Anthrax is a potential agent for use as a biological weapon or bio-terrorism. Bacillus anthracis

        Bacillus anthracis

        illustration

      A Closer Look

       

      Tests for Anthrax blood test

       

      Review Date: 9/10/2015

      Reviewed By: Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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