Brucellosis is a zoonotic infection caused by ingestion of undercooked meat or unpasteurized milk from animals infected with Brucella bacteria. It can also be caused by being in close contact with their secretions.

Synonyms: Malta fever, Mediterranean fever, Rock fever or gastric remittent fever

Mode of transmission:

  • Eating or drinking meat or milk contaminated with bacteria
  • Breathing in contaminated air
  • A wound or cut
  • Sexual contact
  • From an infected mother to fetus

Causative organism

Brucellosis is caused by bacteria belonging to the genus Brucella. These are aerobic coccobacilli.  They usually concentrate in reproductive organs of the host and leads to abortions or infertility. Four types of bacteria are found to cause majority of infections.

  • B.melitensis: mainly found in sheep and goats
  • B.suis: mainly found in wild pigs
  • B.canis: mainly spread from dogs.
  • B.abortus: they are mainly seen in cattle

Risk factors

  • Sex: male
  • Profession: livestock feeders
  • Travelers to endemic regions


  • Fever
  • Body aches
  • Loss of appetite
  • Abdominal pain
  • Cough
  • Headaches
  • Lethargy
  • Malaise
  • Weight loss

Symptoms usually appear within 4 weeks of contact. The persistence of symptoms depends on the Brucella species.

Depending on duration of disease, it can be divided into three phases:

  • Acute phase (duration less than 3 months)
  • Subacute phase (duration of 3-12 months)
  • Chronic phase (duration greater than 12 months)


Definitive diagnosis is based on the following:

  • Isolation of organism from tissues, body fluids or blood.
  • Detection of specific antibodies against bacterial lipopolyssachride.
  • Dipstick assays
  • PCR assays


It is usually treated with antibiotics and combination therapy is followed.

  • Rifampin
  • Doxycycline

For atleast six weeks


If left untreated or treatment is unsuccessful it may lead to complications

  • Arthritis
  • Cholecystitis
  • Encephalitis
  • Endocarditis
  • Epidydymo-orchitis
  • Lesions in bones and joints
  • Meningitis
  • Osteomyelitis


  • Avoid consumption of unpasteurized milk or milk products
  • Wear gloves when being in contact with livestock
  • If you are injured, avoid being in contact with animals
  • Brucellosis vaccines are available for domestic animals.

Jose J Kochuparambil

I love the quote -' be the change that you wanna see in others'

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