Tularemia is a serious infectious disease caused by the intracellular bacterium Francisella tularensis. A Gram-negative pleomorphic coccobacillus, the bacterium has several subspecies with varying degrees of virulence.
In the 1950s, thousands of people were infected each year. This number has dropped considerably, to less than 200 each year, and those who are infected now tend to be those who are exposed to the organism in its rural habitat.
Tularemia can be effectively treated with antibiotics such as streptomycin or gentamicin, which are given by injection directly into a muscle or vein.
There is great interest in developing a new vaccine, not only to protect those at high risk for disease, but also for counterterrorism to reduce the threat of biological warfare.