Anthrax: Our Bodies Under Siege

  • National Geographic

Anthrax: Our Bodies Under Siege

  • National Geographic

Using the latest in animation and special FX we embark on a roller-coaster ride to experience the full horror of what happens when your body is invaded by anthrax.

Soon after September 11th a second terrifying ordeal confronted the US – biological weapons. Anthrax appeared in the mail of leading politicians and journalists. Caught in the front line were the postal workers, several of whom lost their lives. There was much misrepresentation, confusion and fear about anthrax. In the midst of the crisis this documentary portrays the battle of one family and a medical teams valiant effort to save a postal worker’s life.

Anthrax: Our Bodies Under Siege aims to steady nerves by explaining what the disease is and exactly how it attacks the body. Stunning animation and a dramatic reconstruction of one postal worker’s story, provides a compelling insight into what happens to the body.

The most dangerous form of anthrax is called ‘inhalation anthrax’ and you must breathe in a lot of its spores to become infected. Once inside the lungs the bodies defence cells, or macrophages, rapidly seek out and try to destroy the spores. But being eaten is critical to anthrax’s lifecycle and the killer rapidly awakens. The bacteria start to replicate fast, and produce a deadly toxin. Soon huge numbers build up and the victim’s body is overwhelmed with anthrax bacteria, each one programmed to produce as many new bacteria as possible, and ultimately to kill. The victim’s white blood cells over- react pouring out substances that cause blood vessels to leak Blood pressure crashes, organs start to fail. Fluid starts to pour into the lungs. Anthrax literally turns our bodies immune defence system against itself. Most victims die within 24 hours.

A postal worker’s daughter gives a deeply personal account of her father’s ordeal. He was one of the lucky ones. Doctors treating him gave regular up-dates on his condition. His rapid diagnosis and the extraordinary care of the medical team eventually saved his life and brought hope that the disease could be beaten. After the documentary was screened the CDC requested copies of the film to train staff working in against anthrax.

The film includes powerful interviews from Donald Henderson, US Dept of Defence and Dr Ken Alibek, former head of the Russian Bio Defence Programme, who charts the deadly origins of the bacteria and its lethal impact on the body.


“An excellent and compelling program, can we use it for training our staff?“ Laurence Odum, Centre for Disease Control (CDC) Atlanta


Columbus Film and Video Festival 2002 – Chris Award for Best Science/Technology Documentary


  • Narrator:
    Jonathon Bryce
  • Photography:
    Dave Goulding, Peter Kent and Brett Wiley
  • Editor:
    Anne Goetz
  • Producer/Director:
    Nick Stringer
  • Executive Producer:
    Sarah Cunliffe