What Is Brucellosis?

Brucellosis is an infectious disease of Brucella Bacteria that is spread from animal to human, generally through the consumption of milk, especially unpasteurized milk, or other dairy products. Although rare, brucellosis can also spread through the air or direct contact with infected animals.

Causes of Brucellosis
Brucellosis is caused by Brucella bacteria. These bacteria can enter the body through the skin, mucous membranes, respiratory tract, digestive tract, even through the eyes. Brucella can survive in the body, and can move through the lymph flow system or through the bloodstream, from one organ to another. As a result, infections that appear can be limited in certain areas, or extend to other body parts.

Humans can contract brucellosis through the consumption of raw animal products, such as meat, milk, or other dairy products (eg cheese) from animals infected with Brucella . Brucella bacteria can also be transmitted from animals to humans by air entering the human respiratory system, or physical contact with Brucella infected animals . Generally, physical contact occurs when the blood of an infected animal enters the human bloodstream through injuries present in the human body. Although transmission through physical contact is not easy, it is advisable that people with weak immune systems do not make contact with animals suspected of being infected.

Transmission of human-to-human brucellosis is rare, but in some cases, infected women can transmit the disease to their babies through childbirth and breastfeeding. Transmission can also occur through sexual contact or blood transfusion.

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Symptoms of Brucellosis
Symptoms of brucellosis can occur within 5 days to one month after infection, and are generally similar to flu symptoms, including:
  • Fever .
  • Headache.
  • Cough.
  • Muscle and joint pain.
  • Stomach ache.
  • Sweating at night.
  • Appetite and weight loss.
Symptoms may disappear within weeks or months, but may recur. In some people, symptoms may last for years, even after treatment. Long-term symptoms experienced include frequent fever, arthritis, endocarditis , and inflammation of the spine and surrounding tissue.

Diagnosis of Brucellosis
The doctor will take blood samples or bone marrow samples to diagnose brucellosis. Because brucellosis can attack multiple organs, patients may undergo multiple imaging tests, such as X-rays to see changes in bones and joints, and perform CT scans or MRIs to see if there are abscesses or inflammations in the brain and other tissues. If the patient is suspected of having an infection or damage to the heart, then the doctor will run an echocardiography test. Brain fluid samples can also be taken to check for signs of inflammation of the brain and meningitis .

Complications Brucellosis
Brucellosis can affect almost every part of the body, such as the central nervous system, the reproductive system, and the liver. If it lasts in the long run, brucellosis can cause complications in one or more organs, such as:
  • Endocarditis . Infections of the inner lining of the heart can damage the heart valve and cause death.
  • Arthritis . Brucellosis can cause joint inflammation in the knee, ankle, wrist, pelvis, and inflammation of the spinal joint, which can be difficult to treat and can cause permanent damage.
  • Epididymoorchitis . Brucellosis-causing bacteria can infect the male genital tract, the epididymis, then spread to the testicles resulting in severe pain and swelling.
  • Spleen and liver infections . Brucellosis in the spleen or liver can make both organs swell.
  • Inflammation of the brain and meningitis . Brucella infection that attacks the central nervous system can lead to inflammation of the brain or meningitis.
  • Miscarriage and birth defects . Pregnant women infected with Brucella risk giving birth to a disabled child or miscarriage .

Treatment of Brucellosis
Treatment in brucellosis patients aims to relieve symptoms, prevent recurrent infections, and avoid complications. Patients will be given antibiotics, such as doxycycline or rifampicin , to be consumed for at least 6 weeks. Other antibiotics commonly used in the treatment of brucellosis are cotrimoxazole, streptomycin , ciprofloxacin , and tetracycline .

Keep in mind, there are 5 to 15% cases of brucellosis that recur despite being treated. Typically the infection re-occurs six months after treatment and can take place in the long term (chronic).

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