"Compared with plague and anthrax, tularemia is less well known to the general public, but recent outbreaks and its potential as a bioterrorism agent have brought the disease into the limelight. Sometimes called rabbit fever, tularemia primarily infects small- to medium-size mammals such as hares, prairie dogs, and rodents. However, the disease can be spread to humans through contact with infected animals, bites from ticks and deerflies, or inhalation of the airborne bacteria. Early symptoms of the disease are similar to the flu but can develop into serious, acute conditions of the glands, intestines, and respiratory system, including life-threatening pneumonia. To make matters worse, although antibiotics can be used to effectively treat the disease, the amount of time available for therapeutic intervention can be fairly short, typically three to five days if bacteria are inhaled. Tularemia is caused by the bacterium Francisella tularensis. Four subspecies of F. tularensis are currently recognized, and several strains within these subspecies are highly virulent, with as few as ten organisms causing infection. Tularemia's virulence and ability to be aerosolized raise concerns that the bacterium could be used as a bioterrorism agent. To combat this potential threat, scientists have ramped up efforts to develop a licensed vaccine for the disease, which would be especially important for military personnel. However, before a vaccine can be produced, scientists must first understand how the bacterium infects cells and what causes it to be so virulent."
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory: https://www.llnl.gov/
Science & Technology Review (July/August 2010)