Dead Zebras May Hold the Key to Fighting Anthrax

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Zebras frolic in the Serengeti national reserve on October 25, 2010.
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Here in the United States, when the word anthrax is mentioned thoughts of chemical weapons, unopened letters, and Colin Powell at the United Nations immediately come to mind.

But in other parts of the world, anthrax is a bacteria commonly found in nature, threatening local residents and wildlife.

Countermeasures for anthrax have so far eluded scientists and biohazard researchers. If there was a reliable cure for anthrax, one of the most fearsome threats in the war on terror would suddenly be off the table.

Holly Ganz, a research scientist at the University of California in Davis, studies anthrax in it's natural habitat. Her most recent research took her to the grasslands of Namibia, and she says she may have found a natural enemy to the anthrax bacteria.

While examining the carcasses of zebras that were killed by anthrax in Africa, Ganz and her team found a type of virus that can fight anthrax. In the future the virus, known as a bacteriophage—which literally means bacteria eater—could be used as an alternative to antibiotics for anthrax treatment, or for decontamination efforts. Ganz joins The Takeway to explain her research.