Soil samples were collected along a north-south transect extending from Manitoba, Canada, to the US-Mexico border near El Paso, Texas in 2004 (104 samples), a group of sites within New Orleans, Louisiana following Hurricane Katrina in 2005 (19 samples), and a Gulf Coast transect extending from Sulphur, Louisiana, to DeFuniak Springs, Florida, in 2007 (38 samples). Samples were collected from the top 40 cm of soil and were screened for the presence of total Bacillus species and Bacillus anthracis (anthrax), specifically using multiplex-polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Using an assay with a sensitivity of ~170 equivalent colony-forming units (CFU) g-1 field moist soil, the prevalence rate of Bacillus sp./B. anthracis in the north-south transect and the 2005 New Orleans post-Katrina sample set were 20/5% and 26/26%, respectively. Prevalence in the 2007 Gulf Coast sample set using an assay with a sensitivity of ~4 CFU g-1 of soil was 63/0%. Individual transect-set data indicate a positive relation between occurrences of species and soil moisture or soil constituents (i.e., Zn and Cu content). The 2005 New Orleans post-Katrina data indicated that B. anthracis is readily detectable in Gulf Coast soils following flood events. The data also indicated that occurrence, as it relates to soil chemistry, may be confounded by flood-induced dissemination of germinated cells and the mixing of soil constituents for short temporal periods following an event.
Additional publication details
A survey of the occurrence of Bacillus anthracis in North American soils over two long-range transects and within post-Katrina New Orleans