Last updated date: 20-Mar-2023
Originally Written in English
Human brucellosis| Recent Advances and Future Challenges
Human brucellosis is an infectious disease caused by the bacteria of the genus Brucella. The disease is transmitted to humans primarily through contact with infected animals, such as sheep, goats, cattle, and pigs, or through consumption of contaminated animal products. The symptoms of brucellosis can vary widely, and may include fever, fatigue, headaches, muscle and joint pain, and neurological problems. In some cases, the disease can become chronic and lead to long-term health problems.
While human brucellosis is a relatively rare disease in many parts of the world, it is still a major public health concern in some regions, particularly in the Middle East, Central Asia, and parts of Africa and South America.
What is Brucellosis?
Brucellosis, also known as Malta fever, is a zoonotic infectious disease caused by bacteria of the genus Brucella. The disease is primarily transmitted to humans from infected animals, such as goats, sheep, cattle, and pigs, through direct contact with infected animal tissues or fluids, or through consumption of contaminated animal products.
Brucella bacteria can survive in the environment for long periods of time, making it a difficult disease to control. The symptoms of brucellosis can range from mild flu-like symptoms to severe, long-lasting chronic illness, depending on the severity of the infection.
The exact number of people with brucellosis is difficult to determine, as many cases go undiagnosed or unreported. However, it is estimated that there are several hundred thousand new cases of brucellosis each year worldwide. The disease is most common in developing countries, where livestock management practices may be inadequate, and where the disease is not well controlled. In the United States, the incidence of brucellosis is relatively low, with an average of 100-200 cases reported each year, mostly in individuals who have traveled to areas where the disease is more common.
Causes and Risk Factors of Brucellosis
Brucellosis is primarily caused by the bacteria of the genus Brucella, which can infect a wide range of animals, including goats, sheep, cattle, pigs, dogs, and other animals. The bacteria can be transmitted to humans through direct contact with infected animal tissues or fluids, consumption of contaminated animal products (such as unpasteurized milk or cheese), or inhalation of contaminated dust or aerosols.
Individuals who are at increased risk for brucellosis include farmers, veterinarians, and individuals who work with animals or animal products. Travelers to countries where the disease is more common are also at increased risk, particularly if they consume unpasteurized dairy products or have contact with animals. Other risk factors for brucellosis include occupational exposure to infected animals, consumption of contaminated food or water, and living in close proximity to infected animals.
Brucellosis is not typically spread from person-to-person, and is not considered to be a highly contagious disease. However, individuals who have been diagnosed with brucellosis should take precautions to avoid transmitting the disease to others, particularly through contact with blood or other bodily fluids.
How is Brucellosis transmitted?
Brucellosis is primarily transmitted to humans through direct contact with infected animal tissues or fluids. The bacteria that cause brucellosis can infect a wide range of animals, including goats, sheep, cattle, pigs, dogs, and other animals. People who come into contact with these animals or their products, such as meat, milk, or cheese, may be at risk of contracting brucellosis.
In addition to direct contact with infected animals or animal products, brucellosis can also be transmitted through inhalation of contaminated dust or aerosols. This is particularly common in settings where infected animals are being handled, such as in slaughterhouses, veterinary clinics, or laboratories.
Brucellosis is not typically spread from person-to-person, and is not considered to be a highly contagious disease. However, in rare cases, the disease can be transmitted through sexual contact, blood transfusions, or from an infected mother to her baby during pregnancy or breastfeeding.
What Are the Symptoms of Brucellosis?
The symptoms of brucellosis can vary widely, and may not appear until several weeks after exposure to the bacteria. Common symptoms of brucellosis include:
- Fever, chills, and sweating
- Headache, muscle aches, and joint pain
- Fatigue and weakness
- Loss of appetite and weight loss
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Abdominal pain and gastrointestinal symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
- Respiratory symptoms, such as cough and chest pain
In some cases, brucellosis may lead to complications, particularly if the disease is not diagnosed and treated promptly. Complications of brucellosis may include chronic fatigue, depression, arthritis, or infection of the heart, liver, or spleen.
the symptoms of brucellosis can be similar to those of many other illnesses, and diagnosis may require laboratory testing to confirm the presence of the bacteria. If you suspect that you may have been exposed to the bacteria that cause brucellosis, it's important to seek medical attention promptly.
How is Brucellosis Diagnosed?
Diagnosing brucellosis can be challenging because the symptoms of the disease can be similar to those of many other illnesses. In addition, the bacteria that cause brucellosis can be difficult to detect in laboratory tests. However, there are a number of tests that can be used to diagnose the disease, including:
- Blood tests: Blood tests can detect the presence of antibodies to the bacteria that cause brucellosis. These tests are often used to confirm a suspected case of the disease.
- Bone marrow culture: In some cases, a bone marrow culture may be used to detect the presence of the bacteria. This test may be recommended if blood tests are inconclusive or if there is a high suspicion of the disease.
- Other cultures: Other cultures, such as those of urine, sputum, or cerebrospinal fluid, may also be used to detect the presence of the bacteria.
- Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests: PCR tests can detect the genetic material of the bacteria that cause brucellosis. These tests can be helpful in confirming a diagnosis, particularly in cases where blood tests are inconclusive.
If you suspect that you may have been exposed to the bacteria that cause brucellosis, it's important to seek medical attention promptly. Early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent complications and improve the likelihood of a full recovery.
How is Brucellosis Treated?
Brucellosis is usually treated with a combination of antibiotics for a period of several weeks to several months, depending on the severity of the infection. Commonly used antibiotics for treating brucellosis include doxycycline, rifampin, and trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole. Other antibiotics may also be used, depending on the specific circumstances of the case.
In addition to antibiotics, treatment for brucellosis may also include medications to manage symptoms such as fever, pain, and inflammation. Bed rest may also be recommended to help reduce the risk of complications.
It's important to complete the full course of antibiotics, even if you begin to feel better before the treatment is finished. Failure to complete the full course of antibiotics can increase the risk of relapse and may contribute to the development of antibiotic resistance.
If you have been diagnosed with brucellosis, it's also important to take steps to prevent the spread of the disease to others. This may include avoiding close contact with others, practicing good hygiene, and taking other measures as recommended by your healthcare provider.
What are the Complications of Brucellosis?
If left untreated or inadequately treated, brucellosis can lead to a range of complications, including:
- Osteoarticular complications: This is the most common complication of brucellosis, and it affects the bones and joints. It can cause arthritis, spondylitis, and sacroiliitis.
- Neurological complications: Brucellosis can affect the nervous system, causing symptoms such as headaches, meningitis, encephalitis, and neuropathy.
- Cardiovascular complications: Brucellosis can affect the heart and blood vessels, leading to endocarditis, myocarditis, and other cardiovascular problems.
- Hepatic complications: Brucellosis can affect the liver, causing liver inflammation, hepatomegaly, and jaundice.
- Genitourinary complications: Brucellosis can affect the reproductive system, leading to orchitis, epididymitis, and other genitourinary problems.
- Other complications: Brucellosis can also cause other complications such as anemia, thrombocytopenia, and uveitis.
It's important to seek medical treatment if you suspect that you have brucellosis, to minimize the risk of complications. With prompt and appropriate treatment, the prognosis for brucellosis is generally good, and most people recover without lasting complications.
How Can I Prevent Brucellosis?
There are several steps you can take to prevent brucellosis:
- Avoid consuming unpasteurized dairy products: Drink only pasteurized milk and eat only dairy products that have been properly pasteurized to kill any bacteria.
- Wear protective clothing: If you work with animals or animal products, wear gloves, protective clothing, and goggles to prevent contact with potentially infected materials.
- Practice good hygiene: Wash your hands frequently, especially after handling animals or animal products.
- Control rodent populations: Keep your home and surrounding areas clean and free of rodents, which can carry the Brucella bacteria.
- Practice safe sex: Use condoms to prevent sexual transmission of the disease.
- Vaccination: For individuals at high risk of infection, such as those who work with animals, vaccination against brucellosis may be recommended.
If you believe you have been exposed to brucellosis, it's important to seek medical attention promptly. Early treatment with antibiotics can help prevent the development of more severe symptoms and complications.
Can I Get Brucellosis from My Dog?
Yes, it is possible to contract brucellosis from infected dogs. Brucella canis is a strain of the Brucella bacteria that primarily infects dogs, but it can also infect humans. People can become infected with Brucella canis through contact with infected dogs, particularly during the birthing process or through contact with bodily fluids, such as blood or urine. It is important to practice good hygiene when handling dogs and to take precautions when dealing with reproductive fluids or tissues, such as during breeding or whelping. If you suspect that your dog may be infected with brucellosis, it is important to seek veterinary care and take appropriate precautions to prevent transmission to humans.
How do I take care of myself with Brucellosis?
If you have been diagnosed with brucellosis, there are several steps you can take to take care of yourself and manage your symptoms:
- Take your medications as prescribed: Your healthcare provider will likely prescribe a combination of antibiotics for several weeks to months. It is important to take your medications exactly as prescribed to ensure that the infection is properly treated.
- Rest: Rest is important to allow your body to heal and recover from the infection. It is important to get enough sleep and to avoid overexerting yourself.
- Drink plenty of fluids: It is important to stay well hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids, such as water, herbal teas, or clear broths.
- Manage your symptoms: Over-the-counter pain relievers can help manage fever, headaches, and muscle pain associated with brucellosis. Speak with your healthcare provider before taking any medications to ensure that they are safe and appropriate for you.
- Follow good hygiene practices: Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, particularly after handling animals, animal products, or waste. Wear gloves when handling animals or animal tissues and avoid eating or drinking unpasteurized dairy products.
- Stay in contact with your healthcare provider: It is important to attend all scheduled appointments and to report any changes in symptoms or new symptoms to your healthcare provider.
- Seek support: Living with a chronic illness can be challenging. Consider seeking support from family, friends, or support groups to help manage your symptoms and maintain your quality of life.
Brucellosis is a bacterial infection that can cause a range of symptoms, from fever and fatigue to joint pain and neurological problems. While it is a relatively rare disease in many parts of the world, it is still a major public health concern in some regions.
The best way to prevent brucellosis is to practice good hygiene when handling animals or animal products, such as washing your hands frequently and wearing gloves. If you have been diagnosed with brucellosis, it is important to take your medications as prescribed, rest, and manage your symptoms.
While the prognosis for brucellosis is generally good with proper treatment, it is important to seek medical attention if you suspect that you may have been exposed to the bacteria or if you develop symptoms. With prompt diagnosis and treatment, most people are able to fully recover from brucellosis and resume their normal activities.