Identification and characterization of clinical Bacillus spp. isolates phenotypically similar to Bacillus anthracis


  • Editor: Tim Mitchell

Correspondence: Cari A. Beesley, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1600 Clifton Rd. NE, Mailstop G34, Atlanta, GA 30333, USA. Tel.: +1 404 639 2065; fax: +1 404 639 3022; e-mail:


Bacillus anthracis, the etiological agent of anthrax, is a gram-positive, spore-forming rod, with colonies exhibiting a unique ground-glass appearance, and lacking hemolysis and motility. In addition to these phenotypes, several others traits are characteristic of B. anthracis such as susceptibility to gamma phage, the presence of two virulence plasmids (pX01 and pX02), and specific cell wall and capsular antigens that are commonly detected by direct fluorescent-antibody assays. We report on the identification and characterization of 14 Bacillus megaterium and four Bacillus sp. clinical isolates that are nonhemolytic, nonmotile, and produce a capsule antigenically similar to B. anthracis. This work furthers our understanding of Bacillus diversity and the limitations of the assays and phenotypes that are used to differentiate species in this genus. Further work is necessary to understand whether these strains are opportunistic pathogens or just contaminates.