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High anthrax mortality in a tropical rainforest

Ever since Fabian discovered that a weird Bacillus cereus (Bacillus cereus biovar anthracis; Bcbva) was killing chimpanzees in the Tai National Park, Côte d'Ivoire, our group has systematically looked for this bug in the carcasses we necropsied. Over the years, this developed into one of our major projects and we have now accumulated a considerable amount of information, from necropsies, bones and flies (yes, flies!), including 178 full genomes! Our findings, which were published yesterday in Nature, suggest this pathogen has been circulating in Tai for quite a while and might account for a very significant part of the overall chimp and wildlife mortality there. There are many pending questions about Bcbva: how do chimps and other wildlife get infected? What is its exact distribution in sub-Saharan Africa? Does it kill that much anywhere else? Are humans living close to Bcbva endemic areas affected? We are working hard on these questions and hope we can provide an even higher definition picture of Bcbva epidemiology in the years to come.

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