Brucellosis: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

Brucellosis is an infectious disease caused by a group of bacteria. Not all bacteria can cause a problem. So, the bacteria coming under the genus of Brucella can trigger the infectious disease. The bacteria can affect both animals as well as humans. You get the disease when you come in contact with the infected animals. It can also affect you when you consume animal products contaminated with the Brucella bacteria. You need to understand the issue in detail to prevent the problem.

What Is Brucellosis?

Brucellosis It is a problem affects humans as well as animals alike. Several thousands of people get affected by the disease around the world. Animals are also vulnerable to the problem. You need to understand the different transmission methods of the disease. It will help you avoid the infection from affecting your life.

Brucellosis Causing Animals

Different strains of Brucella bacteria can lead to infection. The common animals infected by the bacteria are:

  • Sheep
  • Cow
  • Camels
  • Goats
  • Dogs
  • Pigs

You can see the strain in cows. While other strains occur in other animals described above. Researchers recently discovered new strains in marine animals and red fox. Unfortunately, no cure is available for animals who get infected by the bacteria. Therefore, you need to maintain caution while having animal products. You also need to maintain caution while working with animals. Always follow the safety guidelines. Wear protective clothes and gloves to prevent the issue.

Transmission Methods Of Brucellosis

You can contact the problem in three ways. Read ahead to know in detail about the methods you can get affected:

Consuming Raw Animal Products

Consuming Raw Animal Products

It is the common method of transmission of the infection. Eating uncooked/undercooked meat can put your life at risk. Consuming the raw or unpasteurized dairy products can also spread the infection from the animal into your body. When an animal gets infected, its flesh and milk become contaminated with the Brucella bacteria. The unpasteurized milk from the infected animals will help the bacteria to remain in it. Pasteurization is the process that exposes the milk or by-products to an elevated temperature for a specific period of time. So, it kills the microorganism that can trigger any disease. When you consume the unpasteurized milk, cheese or other dairy products, you can get affected by it.

Inhalation Of Bacteria

Breathing in the bacteria can lead to infection. The inhalation of the bacteria can lead to complication. So, people who work in the laboratory with the bacteria can get the infection. The exposure to the bacteria can make you more susceptible to brucellosis. Therefore, people working in the meat-packing section and slaughterhouse have the chances to inhale the bacteria.

Enter Through Wounds

Bacteria can enter your body through skin wounds. It can also enter through your mucous membranes. So, when you come in contact with the infected animals, the bacteria can enter through the scrapes or mucous membranes. It is a problem for workers who have the chance to come in contact with animal excretions. Therefore, people working with newborn animals, excretions resulting from the birth or animal fetuses can cause the problem. The people who get infected with brucellosis from the method include:

  • Employees working in meat-packing plants
  • Workers at the slaughterhouse
  • Veterinarians

Risk Factors Of Brucellosis

With the infection transmitting in different ways, you may feel you can get the problem. But, the factors that influence the spreading of the problem include:


The location can play an important role in getting infected by the bacteria. People living in some parts of the world have higher rates of contacting the infection compared to others. So, if you come from the following parts of the globe, you need to maintain caution.

  • Eastern Europe
  • Asia
  • Around Mediterranean Sea Region
  • Latin America
  • The Middle East
  • Africa
  • The Caribbean

People living in the region have higher chances to consume unpasteurized dairy products. Goat cheese is the main product people consume to get the infection. Therefore, the unpasteurized goat cheese is the root cause of the problem. Even the unpasteurized goat cheese from Mexico can also trigger the brucellosis.

Occupational Risk

People who come in contact with the infected animals can get the infection. The exposure to the infection may occur through open skin wounds. It can also affect you by ingesting undercooked meat. Inhaling the bacteria can also increase your risk of getting the infections. Therefore, people who work in the following sectors have a higher risk of brucellosis:

  • Dairy Farmers
  • Ranchers
  • Veterinarians
  • Hunters
  • Slaughterhouse Workers
  • Microbiologists

Other People At Risk

It may not transmit through the infected person to another person. So, sexual transmission or transmission through saliva or other bodily fluids may not occur. But, transmission can happen in other ways:

  • A mother who has the infection can transmit their infection to their newborn through breastfeeding.
  • The transmission can also occur with infected blood transfusions.
  • You can also get the infection with the infected tissue transplantation.

Different Types Of Brucellosis

Do you think that only one bacteria triggers the infection? The answer is no. Four different types of bacteria coming under the Brucella cause the majority of infections. Therefore, the diverse types of bacteria causing brucellosis in humans are:

B. melitensis

B. melitensis

It is the type of bacteria causing the majority of infection cases in humans. It spreads from the common domesticated animals to humans. Therefore, animals like goats and sheep have a bacterial presence. The countries in the world affected by the bacteria are:

  • Greece
  • Spain
  • Middle East
  • Latin America
  • India

B. suis

The bacteria affects the wild pigs. It is the infection commonly found in the USA. The bacterial strain mostly occurs in California. So, the Brucella bacteria triggers the brucellosis infection in the Southeast parts of the US and California. The bacteria can also trigger an infection in humans in other areas of the world like:

  • South America
  • Europe
  • Southeast Asia

B. canis

B. canis

The particular type of Brucella bacteria can spread from dogs to humans. The countries affected by the bacteria are:

  • Central Europe
  • Japan
  • North, South, and Central America

B. abortus

It is the infection affecting the cattle. So, it spreads from the cattle to humans. You can find the bacterial presence in several countries around the world. With the latest medications available, the following countries no longer have the presence of the bacteria:

  • Several European Countries
  • Israel
  • Japan
  • New Zealand
  • Australia

Symptoms Of Brucellosis

How can you know that you have the Brucella bacteria in your body? You may experience conditions similar to flu with the infection. So, the possible symptoms that you can see due to the infection are:

You can see the symptoms within five to thirty days of contracting the infection. So, after coming in contact with the bacteria, you can see visible symptoms within the stipulated time frame. The severity of the symptoms depends on the type of Brucella bacterial infection. So, depending on the bacteria making you sick, you experience the following:

B. abortus

The bacteria usually causes mild or moderate symptoms. But, ignoring can complicate the issue. So, you can develop chronic symptoms with long-lasting effects.

B. canis

The symptoms are similar to the B. abortus infection. The symptoms mostly come and goes. But, apart from the regular signs, you can also experience other problem. In most cases, you can suffer from diarrhea and vomiting.

B. suis

The brucellosis infection triggered by B. suis can cause abscesses. The areas of infection can affect different organs in your body.

B. melitenis

The infection signs caused by the bacteria can lead to disability. You may experience severe and sudden symptoms. So, it is the most troublesome bacteria among the lot.

Complications Of Brucellosis

Ignoring the infection can result in severe complications. The brucellosis can affect the different parts of the body. From the central nervous system, heart, liver to the reproductive system, the vital organs can bear the brunt. So, chronic brucellosis can create complications in several organs throughout the body. Seeking medical assistance also will never reduce the complications. In some cases, the antibiotics find it difficult to eliminate the brucellosis causing bacteria from your body. So, you need to take the several doses of antibiotics prescribed by the doctor. But, the bacteria can still remain in the body. The possible complication due to the bacteria includes:



Ignoring the infection can result in endocarditis. It is the infection affecting the inner lining of the heart. It is the serious complication of the infection. If you do not seek treatment for endocarditis, then it destroys your heart valve. So, it can result in severe health complication like deaths.


The bacteria can cause infection in the joints. So, you can experience pain and stiffness in the joint. The problem can also lead to swelling. The problem can trigger issues in areas like:

  • Knees
  • Spine
  • Wrists
  • Ankles
  • Hips

Therefore, the problem can escalate into spondylitis. The inflammation of the joints between the spines and vertebrae. The problem is hard to treat. Thus, it can cause everlasting damage.



The bacteria can infect the testicles causing inflammation. It is due to the fact that the brucellosis can affect the coiled tube in the testicle. So, from the tube, the infection spreads to the testicle. It can lead to pain and swelling. The condition is severe.

Spleen And Liver Problem

The infection affects the spleen as well as the liver. Therefore, the organs can enlarge beyond their regular size. The abnormal size can result in other complications.

Problems In Central Nervous System

The infection affects the central nervous system. The result is a potentially life-threatening illness. So, you can get affected by meningitis. It is the inflammation of the spinal cord and brain membranes. The problem can also result in another problem known as encephalitis. It is the inflammation of the brain triggering several problems in your body.

Therefore, it is better to get medical assistance for the brucellosis immediately. Failure to seek treatment can result in severe complications. The irreversible complications can make your life hell. But, the death from brucellosis can happen only rarely. The mortality is very low (less than 2%). You can survive the disease with proper treatment. Without any possible complications, the chances of reversing the condition are high. So, get medical assistance as quickly as possible.

Diagnosing Brucellosis

When you experience flu-like symptoms, it indicates something wrong in your body. You can get a confirmed diagnosis from a medical professional. Therefore, consult your doctor immediately. The doctor can perform some diagnostic tests to detect brucellosis. The following methods are opted by your doctor:

Medical History

You need to tell your doctor about the symptoms you experience in details. Apart from that, you need to provide information on the recent activities that put at risk of getting the infection. The symptoms of the infection take some time to appear. Therefore, you need to remember and convey information about any contact with infected animals. It may have happened months earlier. But, you need to convey the right information for precise diagnosis.

Culture Test

The flu-like symptoms can sometimes refer to other problems. Therefore, your doctor can suggest various culture tests. It can detect the presence of the bacteria successfully. The various tests you need to undergo includes:


You need to provide your blood to the lab to test for the antibodies. If you have brucellosis, then the blood has the presence of corresponding antibodies.


The Brucella bacteria can cause changes in your joints as well as bones. So, your doctor can suggest the x-rays. The x-ray images can reveal the changes in the bones and joints.

Other Imaging Techniques

The sophisticated imaging techniques like CT (Computerized Tomography) and MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) can provide intricate details. So, the imaging tests help identify the inflammation or abscesses in the tissues. It can even help detect the problem due to the bacteria in the brain.

Cerebrospinal Fluid Culture

The culture needs a small sample of the CSF fluid. The lab technicians can test to detect the infections. So, it can successfully find problems surrounding the brain and spinal cord. It is easy to detect problems like meningitis as well as encephalitis using the diagnostic tool.



The sound waves can create images of your heart. The echocardiography uses the technique to detect the infection. So, the echocardiography checks for signs of infections and the subsequent damage to the heart.

Treating Brucellosis

The treatment of the infection usually involves antibiotics. So, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics to overcome the brucellosis. So, the common antibiotics prescribed to relieve the infection are:

  • Rifampin
  • Doxycycline
  • Bactrim
  • Tetracycline
  • Streptomycin
  • Ofloxacin or Ciprofloxacin

In most cases, your doctor prescribes the combination of rifampin and doxycycline. You need to take it for a period of six to eight weeks. So, taking the medication for the prescribed duration can overcome the infection. Taking the antibiotics for the duration suggested by the doctor can prevent the disease from returning. In some cases, the infection may replace. But, it mostly happens with the first six months after getting the treatment. Recovery mostly depends on the type of Brucella bacteria affecting you. So, you can take weeks or sometimes months to get relief. So, getting the treatment at the right time can alleviate the problem completely. Starting treatment within one month of getting brucellosis can cure the problem completely.

Preventing Brucellosis

It is possible to prevent the infection from affecting your life. You need to take some precautions to overcome the problem. So, just remember the following tips that lower your chances of getting it:

Always Have Pasteurized Dairy Products

The unpasteurized dairy products like milk, cheese or ice cream can increase your chances of getting Brucellosis. The products may have Brucella bacteria in it. So, avoid consuming it. Always include pasteurized products in your life.

Avoid Consuming Raw Meat

Meat can have different bacteria in it. You can eliminate the risk of bacteria from affecting your body by cooking it. Consuming raw meat makes you more vulnerable to infections and other complications. Therefore, always cook the meat to kill all the bacteria in it.

Use Protective Gear

When you handle animals or animal tissue, you expose yourself to infection. Since it is impossible to know the infection status of animals, you need to maintain caution. So, use protective gear. Use gloves and glasses when you come in contact with animals or animal tissues. You need to wear protective clothing when you help with the birthing of animals. Therefore, it reduces the risk of getting the infection.

Cover Wounds

Open wounds or scratches provides a way for the Brucella bacteria to enter your body. Therefore, cover any open wounds before coming in contact with animals. The same rule applies when you work with animal blood.


While working with domesticated animals make sure to vaccinate them. Brucellosis vaccination for animals can prevent bacteria from infecting animals. So, you can keep yourself safe while working with animals. Brucellosis vaccination us not available for humans. Therefore, you need to take appropriate steps to keep yourself protected.


You need to get the treatment as early as possible. Getting medical treatment for brucellosis at the right time can avoid complications. Ignoring the problem can lead to severe complications. It can affect several parts of your body. Therefore, speedy action can limit complications. With appropriate steps, you can reverse the negative effects on your body.

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