BRUCELLOSIS

Brucellosis is an infectious disease caused by a type of bacteria called Brucella. The bacteria can spread from animals to humans via unpasturized milk, cheese, and other dairy products.

There are several different strains of Brucella bacteria. Some types are seen in cows. Others occur in dogs, pigs, sheep, goats, and camels. Recently, scientists have seen new strains in the red fox and certain marine animals, including seals. Brucella in animals cannot be cured.

What Causes Brucellosis?

The bacteria can enter your body:

  • Through a cut or scratch in the skin
  • When you breathe in contaminated air (rare)
  • When you eat or drink something contaminated with the bacteria, such as unpasteurized milk or undercooked meat

General symptoms of brucellosis are often vague and similar to the flu. They may include:

  • Fever (the most common symptom, with high “spikes” that usually occur in the afternoon)
  • Back pain
  • Body-wide aches and pains
  • Poor appetite and weight loss
  • Headache
  • Night sweats
  • Weakness

Symptoms usually appear within five to 30 days after you come in contact with the bacteria. How bad your symptoms are depends on what type of Brucella is making you sick:

  • B. abortus usually causes mild or moderate symptoms, but they are more likely to become chronic (long-lasting).
  • B. canis symptoms may come and go. They are similar to B. abortus infection, although people with B. canis often have vomiting and diarrhea.
  • B. suis may cause areas of infection (called abscesses) in different organs.
  • B. melitensis may cause sudden and severe symptoms, which may lead to disability.

DIAGNOSIS

Doctors usually confirm a diagnosis of brucellosis by testing a sample of blood or bone marrow for the brucella bacteria or by testing blood for antibodies to the bacteria. To help detect complications of brucellosis, you may have additional tests, including:

  • X-rays. X-rays can reveal changes in your bones and joints.
  • Computerized tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). These imaging tests help identify inflammation or abscesses in the brain or other tissues.
  • Cerebrospinal fluid culture. This checks a small sample of the fluid that surrounds your brain and spinal cord for infections such as meningitis and encephalitis.
  • Echocardiography. This test uses sound waves to create images of your heart to check for signs of infection or damage to your heart.

 

RECOMMENDED MEDICATIONS

Brucellosis can be difficult to treat. If you have brucellosis, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics. Antibiotics commonly used to treat brucellosis include:

  • tetracycline
  • streptomycin
  • doxycycline
  • rifampin

You will be given more than one kind of antibiotic.

You must take the antibiotics for many weeks to prevent the disease from returning.

Recovery can take weeks, even months. Patients who receive treatment within one month of the start of symptoms can be cured of the disease.

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