Glanders is a highly infectious and frequently deadly zoonotic illness caused by the bacteria Burkholderia mallei that mostly affects mules, donkeys, and horses. Glanders is mainly transmitted by coming into contact with infected animals or contaminated objects like feed or water troughs, although it can also be transmitted by aerosols. Although it has been documented in other areas, the disease is most frequently found in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.

The US Department of Health and Human Services has designated glanders as a Tier 1 Select Agent due to the possibility of utilizing B. mallei in bioterrorism. The World Health Organization has listed it as a potential biological weapon. Hence, a key element of global biosecurity efforts is the control of glanders.


There are two main types of glanders: acute glanders and chronic glanders.

  • Acute Glanders. The more severe form of the disease, which is usually fatal within a few days to a few weeks.
  • Chronic Glanders.  A milder variation of the illness that can last for months or even years. If neglected, chronic glanders can develop into acute glanders.


Nevertheless, the particular symptoms experienced will vary depending on the kind of disease. The symptoms linked to each condition are listed below.

Acute Glanders

Typical acute glanders symptoms include:

  • High fever
  • Rapid breathing
  • Coughing
  • Pneumonia 
  • Nasal discharge
  • Nodules
  • Ulcers

 Chronic Glanders 

Typical chronic glanders symptoms include:

  • Intermittent fever
  • Weight loss
  • Nodules
  • Ulcers on the skin and mucous membranes


Glanders can be difficult to diagnose since their symptoms can resemble those of other cutaneous and respiratory illnesses. The illness could also have a protracted incubation phase, during which an infected animal might not exhibit any symptoms. The following techniques are frequently employed to diagnose glanders:

  • Clinical symptoms
  • Blood tests
  • Bacterial culture
  • Tests using the polymerase chain reaction (PCR)


Regrettably, there is no effective therapy for glanders in animals at the moment; thus, affected animals must be put to death to stop the disease from spreading. In some instances, antibiotics, including ceftazidime, doxycycline, and imipenem, have been employed, but their efficacy is constrained.

Control methods are required to stop the spread of glanders to humans and other animals in addition to euthanizing afflicted animals. These precautions include isolating infected animals, testing animals that have come into touch with infected animals, taking tight biosecurity measures like cleaning facilities and equipment, and minimizing animal contact.

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