The global distribution of Bacillus anthracis and associated anthrax risk to humans, livestock and wildlife.


Spatial Epidemiology & Ecology Research Lab, Department of Geography, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, USA. [Email]


Bacillus anthracis is a spore-forming, Gram-positive bacterium responsible for anthrax, an acute infection that most significantly affects grazing livestock and wild ungulates, but also poses a threat to human health. The geographic extent of B. anthracis is poorly understood, despite multi-decade research on anthrax epizootic and epidemic dynamics; many countries have limited or inadequate surveillance systems, even within known endemic regions. Here, we compile a global occurrence dataset of human, livestock and wildlife anthrax outbreaks. With these records, we use boosted regression trees to produce a map of the global distribution of B. anthracis as a proxy for anthrax risk. We estimate that 1.83 billion people (95% credible interval (CI): 0.59-4.16 billion) live within regions of anthrax risk, but most of that population faces little occupational exposure. More informatively, a global total of 63.8 million poor livestock keepers (95% CI: 17.5-168.6 million) and 1.1 billion livestock (95% CI: 0.4-2.3 billion) live within vulnerable regions. Human and livestock vulnerability are both concentrated in rural rainfed systems throughout arid and temperate land across Eurasia, Africa and North America. We conclude by mapping where anthrax risk could disrupt sensitive conservation efforts for wild ungulates that coincide with anthrax-prone landscapes.