What’s the Treatment for Anthrax?

Medically Reviewed by Arefa Cassoobhoy, MD, MPH on December 13, 2020

If you think you’ve been exposed to anthrax, seek medical help right away. Do this whether or not you have symptoms, which may not show up right away.

You’ll get a blood test to check for antibodies to anthrax or toxin made by the anthrax bacteria in your blood. You may also get swabs of your skin or samples of your spinal fluid, stool, or mucus that you cough up.

Tell your doctor what happened. If they think you may have breathed in the spores that yield anthrax bacteria, you may get a chest X-ray or CT scan.

The treatment you need will depend on what happened and how you were exposed. You’ll get antibiotics, which you may get through an IV.

You may also need an antitoxin, which is a type of medicine that counters the poisons that anthrax bacteria make. Anthrax antitoxins include obiltoxaximab (Anthim) or  raxibacumab (ABthrax) to help treat inhaled anthrax.

If your case is serious, you’ll get the treatment in a hospital.

Anthrax Vaccine

There is an anthrax vaccine, but it’s only for people who are at risk because they might become exposed to anthrax. This group includes people who work in a lab with anthrax, some people who work with animals or animal products, and some members of the U.S. military.

The anthrax vaccine isn’t approved for use after exposure, but that might change in an emergency situation, such as if anthrax were used in terrorism. In that case, people who are exposed would need three shots of the vaccine over 4 weeks, and also take antibiotics of 60 days.

Remember, anthrax is rare in the United States. You can’t get it unless the spores get into your body, either through a cut or because you breathe them in or drink or eat something that’s contaminated with spores that contain the bacteria. You cannot catch anthrax from someone else.