Anthrax virus in heroin kills fatalities

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Anthrax in heroin in Bavaria

After no anthrax pathogens appeared in Germany for over ten years, the second death from anthrax (anthrax) occurred in early June. According to the Berlin Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the causative agent probably came to Germany from the UK in contaminated heroin. Such heroin has been in circulation in the drug scene there since 2009. According to the authorities, "at least two of the five addicts so far infected in Germany have died".

Anthrax is particularly common in animal populations
Anthrax is caused by the rod-shaped pathogen Bacillus anthracis. Usually the bacterium primarily affects cloven hoofed animals. It currently occurs primarily in animal populations in certain regions of Africa and Asia. "People in industrialized countries are extremely rarely affected," said the RKI. Since the pathogen is not very resistant, the infectious disease can be treated well with antibiotics. However, these could only be used successfully if treatment was started early, according to the RKI. Otherwise, the infection will quickly become fatal. That is why the RKI has called for increased vigilance. In the case of severe swelling of the limbs, doctors should consider infection with anthrax pathogens at an early stage and initiate appropriate diagnostic procedures. "The problem is that the symptoms of an anthrax infection are difficult to distinguish from a normal skin or soft tissue infection," said a spokeswoman for the RKI. In the city of Nuremberg, the addiction officer, Georg Hopfengärtner, also "issued a warning to the local drug scene about the contaminated heroin".

In Germany, the anthrax pathogen had disappeared for over ten years until 2009. Apart from the current five cases, the last case was registered in 1994.

Contaminated heroin with anthrax pathogen probably comes from Great Britain The recently known anthrax cases occurred in the Regensburg area. The two affected fixers had received medical treatment for an inflamed area. The doctor initially suspected blood poisoning. Only after further examinations would it have emerged that those affected had become infected with anthrax. According to the RKI, one of the infected people died on June 5 of the consequences of the disease. In both cases, those affected had injected heroin that was contaminated with anthrax. The "other three cases of infection occurred a long time ago".

By the end of 2010, 52 anthrax infections of heroin addicts had occurred in the UK, the RKI reported. 17 people died. The anthrax that occurred in Germany was identical to the British strain.

Anthrax came into heroin during transport
The Bavarian State Criminal Police Office is currently investigating how the pathogen got into heroin. It is believed that the anthrax spore contamination occurred during the transportation of the drug. “Anthrax pathogens are usually found in animals or animal skins. And it is known that the heroin is transported in the countries of origin with pack animals or wrapped in animal skins, ”said an LKA spokesman. Since anthrax would rarely occur, "it appears that there is a very rare unfortunate coincidence".

In 2009 it was very likely that a larger amount of contaminated heroin had reached Great Britain, of which a smaller part later reached Germany. The LKA excludes that the drug was contaminated with anthrax. "So far we have no evidence of this," said the LKA spokesman.

Anthrax as a biological weapon In some countries, anthrax spores are viewed as a biological weapon by terrorists and the military, although biological weapons are outlawed worldwide because they can easily be used as a means of mass killing. At the end of the 1970s, aerosol containing anthrax spores was accidentally released from a military laboratory for biological weapons in the former Soviet Union. The incident cost lives.

According to the London Times, around 450 laboratories worldwide are working on the development of anthrax, smallpox, plague and cholera pathogens. The pathogens can be altered as invisible and odorless toxins in the form of the finest powder, shot in grenades or by plane are sprayed as an aerosol and cause the death of millions of people. (ag)

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