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 is treated with a drug called streptomycin. The drug is given intramuscularly, twice a day, for one to two weeks. Alternatively Gentamicin may be given intravenously.
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.