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Brucellosis: Causes, Symptoms, Types, Transmission, Diagnosis, Treatment and Complications

Jul 17, 2023


A bacterial infection called brucellosis can pass from animals to humans. Humans typically contract the disease by consuming raw or unpasteurized dairy products. The brucellosis-causing bacteria can occasionally be transmitted through the air or by coming into close contact with affected animals.

Fever, tiredness, and joint discomfort are a few of the brucellosis symptoms and signs that may be present. Antibiotics are typically effective in treating the infection. However, recovery from treatment can take weeks or even months, and the infection may reoccur.

Numerous numbers of humans and animals are affected by brucellosis globally. Brucellosis can be avoided by avoiding raw dairy products and by following safety measures when around animals or in a lab.

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Causes Of Brucellosis

 Brucellosis can be caused by:

  • Direct exposure to the animal's excretions and secretions
  • Consuming unpasteurized milk, raw meat, or milk products that contain live organisms
  • The inhalation of infectious aerosol
  • Person-to-person transmission is uncommon.
  • Brucellosis affects people working as meatpackers, veterinarians, hunters, farmers, livestock producers, and microbiology lab technicians most frequently in rural settings. 

Brucella species are potential biological terrorism agents because relatively few organisms possibly just 10 to 100 can infect people by aerosol exposure. Acute, simple brucellosis patients typically recover in 2 to 3 weeks, even without therapy. Some develop subacute, sporadic, or chronic diseases.

What Are The Symptoms Of Brucellosis?

Brucellosis symptoms might appear anywhere between a few days and a few months following the infection. Similar to the flu, these signs and symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Reduced appetite
  • Sweats
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Back, joint, and muscular pain
  • Headache
The symptoms of brucellosis could go away for a few weeks or months before coming back again. Even after receiving therapy, some persons with brucellosis have persistent symptoms that last for years.
Long-term warning signs and symptoms could be:
  • Fatigue
  • Persistent fevers
  • Endocarditis
  • Arthritic joint inflammation
  • Spinal bone arthritis (spondylitis)
  • Sacroiliitis is arthritis of the joints connecting the pelvic and spine

What Are The 4 Types Of Brucellosis?

The majority of human infections with brucellosis are brought on by four different kinds of Brucella bacteria:

  1. B. Melitensis-  It primarily affects sheep and goats and is the kind that most commonly results in human brucellosis cases. Most frequently, it appears in:
    • Spain
    • Greece
    • Southern Europe
    • South Asia Middle East
  2. B. suis- It is the most frequent strain of Brucella to be found in the United States is the one that affects wild pigs. In the Southeast and California, brucellosis caused by this strain is most prevalent. South America, Southeast Asia, and Europe are also affected.
  3. Canis B- Dogs can carry and spread this particular bacterial illness. Most frequently, it appears in:
    • Americas, both North and Central, and South
    • Japan
    • European Union
  4. B Abortus- This disease is transmitted by cattle. It takes place worldwide. It has been eradicated in a number of European nations, as well as Japan, Israel, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

How Brucellosis Is Transmitted To Humans?

B. canis infection can spread to dogs. Even though brucellosis is often a benign condition, some pet owners have been infected this way. The transfer of brucellosis to a human through a dog bite has been documented in at least one instance. This is not a typical manner to disseminate brucellosis, though. Brucella is typically NOT transferred by most sick dogs to their owners. If you come into contact with the dog's blood or other bodily fluids, you run a higher risk of contracting brucellosis from it. A higher risk of brucellosis exists for veterinarians. You shouldn't handle dogs who have Brucella infection if you have a compromised immune system as a result of medicines or certain illnesses.

Diagnosis Of Brucellosis

Blood or bone marrow tests for the brucella bacterium or tests for antibodies to the bacteria are typically used by doctors to confirm a diagnosis of brucellosis. Your doctor could request further tests, such as the following, to assist identify brucellosis complications:

  • X-rays. X-rays can show changes in your bones and joints.
  • MRI or a CT scan. These imaging examinations aid in locating abscesses or inflammation in the brain or other tissues.
  • Culture of the Cerebrospinal Fluid. This scan looks for illnesses like meningitis and encephalitis in a little sample of the fluid around your brain and spinal cord.
  • Echocardiography. In order to look for indications of infection or cardiac damage, this test employs sound waves to make images of your heart.

Treatment Of Brucellosis

Treatment for brucellosis may be challenging. Your doctor will recommend antibiotics if you have brucellosis. The following are examples of popular antibiotics used to treat brucellosis:

  • Streptomycin, ciprofloxacin (Cipro) or ofloxacin, rifampin (Rifadin), sulfamethoxazole/trimethoprim (Bactrim),
  • Doxycycline (Acticlate, Adoxa, Doryx, Monodox, Oracea, Vibra-Tabs, Vibramycin), and others.
  • Tetracycline

Doxycycline and rifampin are typically prescribed to you together for 6 to 8 weeks.

To stop the illness from recurring again, you must take antibiotics for a number of weeks. Relapse rates after therapy are between 5 and 15%, and they typically happen within the first six months.

Weeks or even months may pass before you feel better. Patients who seek treatment within a month of the onset of symptoms may be cured of the illness.

Complications Of Brucellosis

Almost all of the body's organs are susceptible to brucellosis, including the reproductive system, liver, heart, and central nervous system. Chronic brucellosis complications might have an impact on a single organ or the entire body. Possible problems include:

  • Endocarditis- It is an infection of the inner lining of the heart chambers. This is among the most harmful brucellosis side effects. The leading cause of brucellosis-related deaths is endocarditis, which can damage or destroy heart valves if left untreated.
  • Arthritis- Joint inflammation is characterized by pain, stiffness, and swelling, mainly in the spine, knees, hips, ankles, and wrists. Sacroiliitis, an inflammation of the joints linking the lower spine and pelvis, can be very difficult to treat and may cause lasting damage.
  • Epididymo-Orchitis- Infection and inflammation of the testicles. The coiled tube that joins the vas deferens and the testicle, the epididymis, can become infected by the bacteria that cause brucellosis. The infection may then progress to the testicle itself, where it may result in significant pain and swelling.
  • Infection and Inflammation of the Liver and Spleen- Additionally, spleen and liver damage from brucellosis can result in abnormally large organs.
  • Infected Central Nervous System-  These include conditions that could be fatal, such as inflammation of the brain's or spinal cord's membranes (meningitis) or the infection of the brain itself (encephalitis).

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