Watching a fun programme from the BBC, in which a few people have died and others have been infected by anthrax. But what does it actually DO?

Anthrax is a generally-lethal disease caused by bacillus anthracis. There are effective vaccines against the disease, but until the 20th century anthrax killed hundreds of thousands of humans and animals every year; Louis Pasteur developed the first effective vaccine in 1881.

Bacilus anthraces exists (in “endospore” form) in soil, can survive for decades and are found on all continents on Earth – including Antarctica. They can be eaten or inhaled by cattle, and later contact can pass the disease to humans. Infected humans are not usually contagious, but if they die they can be a source of air-borne endospores.