The genus Bacillus includes members that demonstrate a wide range of diversity from physiology and ecological niche to DNA sequence and gene regulation. The species of most interest tend to be known for their pathogenicity and are closely linked genetically. Bacillus anthracis causes anthrax, and Bacillus thuringiensis is widely used for its insecticidal properties but has also been associated with foodborne disease. Bacillus cereus causes two types of food poisoning, the emetic and diarrheal syndromes, and a variety of local and systemic infections. Although in this review we provide information on the genus and a variety of species, the primary focus is on the B. cereus strains and toxins that are involved in foodborne illness.

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Author notes

Present address: TRAC Microbiology, Inc., 124 Owen Road, Madison, WI 53716, USA.