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Bacillus anthracis is a bacterial pathogen of great importance, both historically and in the present. This study presents data collected from several investigations and indicates that B. anthracis virulence is associated with the clonality and virulence of plasmids pXO1 and pXO2. Guinea pigs vaccinated with Anthrax Vaccine Adsorbed were challenged with 20 B. anthracis isolates representative of worldwide genetic diversity. These same isolates were characterized with respect to plasmid copy number by using a novel method of quantitative PCR developed for rapid and efficient detection of B. anthracis from environmental samples. We found that the copy numbers for both pXO1 and pXO2 differed from those in previously published reports. By combining the data on survival, plasmid copy numbers, and clonality, we developed a model predicting virulence. This model was validated by using a randomly chosen set of 12 additional B. anthracis isolates. Results from this study will be helpful in future efforts to elucidate the basis for variation in the virulence of this important pathogen.

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Journal of Clinical Microbiology

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