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Brucellosis, also called Bang's disease, Gibraltar fever, Malta fever, Maltese fever, Mediterranean fever, rock fever, or undulant fever,[1][2] is a highly contagious zoonosis caused by ingestion of unsterilized milk or meat from infected animals, or close contact with their secretions. Transmission from human to human, for example through sexual contact or from mother to child, is exceedingly rare, but possible.[3] Brucella spp. are small, Gram-negative, non-motile, non-spore-forming rods, which function as facultative intracellular parasites that cause chronic disease, which usually persists for life. Symptoms include profuse sweating and joint and muscle pain. Brucellosis has been recognized in animals including humans since the 19th century.



  • 1 History and nomenclature

  • 2 Brucellosis in animals

    • 2.1 Brucellosis in cattle

    • 2.2 Brucellosis in Ireland

    • 2.3 Brucellosis in the Greater Yellowstone area

    • 2.4 Brucellosis in dogs

  • 3 Brucellosis in humans

    • 3.1 Symptoms

    • 3.2 Treatment and prevention

    • 3.3 Biological warfare

  • 4 Popular culture references

  • 5 See also

  • 6 References

  • 7 External links

[edit] History and nomenclature

The disease now called brucellosis, under the name "Mediterranean fever", first came to the attention of British medical officers in Malta during the Crimean War in the 1850s. The causal relationship between organism and disease was first established by Dr. David Bruce in 1887.[4][5]

In 1897, Danish veterinarian Bernhard Bang isolated Brucella abortus as the agent, and the additional name "Bang's disease" was assigned. In modern usage, "Bang's disease" is often shortened to just "Bangs" when ranchers discuss the disease or vaccine.

Maltese doctor and archaeologist Sir Temi Zammit identified unpasteurized milk as the major source of the pathogen in 1905, and it has since become known as Malta Fever, or deni rqiq locally. In cattle this disease is also known as contagious abortion and infectious abortion.

The popular name "undulant fever" originates from the characteristic undulance (or "wave-like" nature) of the fever which rises and falls over weeks in untreated patients. In the 20th century, this name, along with "brucellosis" (after Brucella, named for Dr Bruce), gradually replaced the 19th century names "Mediterranean fever" and "Malta fever".

In 1989, Saudi Arabian neurologists discovered neurobrucellosis, a neurological involvement in brucellosis.[6][7]

The following obsolete names have previously been applied to brucellosis:

  • Brucelliasis

  • Bruce's septicemia

  • continued fever

  • Crimean fever

  • Cyprus fever

  • febris melitensis

  • febris undulans

  • goat fever

  • melitensis septicemia

  • melitococcosis

  • milk sickness

  • mountain fever

  • Neapolitan fever

  • slow fever

[edit] Brucellosis in animals

Disease incidence map of Brucella melitensis infections in animals in Europe during the first half of 2006.      never reported      not reported in this period      confirmed clinical disease      confirmed infection      no information

Species infecting domestic livestock are B. melitensis (goats and sheep), B. suis (pigs, see
Swine brucellosis), B. abortus (cattle and bison), B. ovis (sheep), and B. canis (dogs). B. abortus also infects bison and elk in North America and B. suis is endemic in caribou. Brucella species have also been isolated from several marine mammal species (pinnipeds and cetaceans).

[edit] Brucellosis in cattle

The bacterium Brucella abortus is the principal cause of brucellosis in cattle. The bacteria are shed from an infected animal at or around the time of calving or abortion. Once exposed, the likelihood of an animal becoming infected is variable, depending on age, pregnancy status, and other intrinsic factors of the animal, as well as the amount of bacteria to which the animal was exposed.[8] The most common clinical signs of cattle infected with Brucella abortus are high incidences of abortions, arthritic joints and retained after-birth. There are two main causes for spontaneous abortion in animals. The first is due to erythritol, which can promote infections in the fetus and placenta. Second is due to the lack of anti-Brucella activity in the amniotic fluid. Males can also harbor the bacteria in their reproductive tracts, namely seminal vesicles, ampullae, testicles, and epididymides.

Dairy herds in the USA are tested at least once a year with the Brucella Milk Ring Test (BRT).[9] Cows that are confirmed to be infected are often killed. In the United States, veterinarians are required to vaccinate all young stock, thereby further reducing the chance of zoonotic transmission. This vaccination is usually referred to as a "calfhood" vaccination. Most cattle receive a tattoo in their ear serving as proof of their vaccination status. This tattoo also includes the last digit of the year they were born.[10]

Canada declared their cattle herd brucellosis-free on September 19, 1985. Brucellosis ring testing of milk and cream, as well as testing of slaughter cattle, ended April 1, 1999. Monitoring continues through auction market testing, standard disease reporting mechanisms, and testing of cattle being qualified for export to countries other than the USA.[11]

The first state–federal cooperative efforts towards eradication of brucellosis caused by Brucella abortus in the U.S. began in 1934.

[edit] Brucellosis in Ireland

Ireland was declared free of brucellosis on 1 July 2009. The disease had troubled the country's farmers and veterinarians for several decades.[12][13] The Irish government submitted an application to the European Commission, which verified that Ireland had been liberated.[13] Brendan Smith, Ireland's Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, said the elimination of brucellosis was "a landmark in the history of disease eradication in Ireland".[12][13] Ireland's Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food intends to reduce its brucellosis eradication programme now that eradication has been confirmed.[12][13]

[edit] Brucellosis in the Greater Yellowstone area

Wild bison and elk in the Greater Yellowstone Area (GYA) are the last remaining reservoir of Brucella abortus in the U.S. The recent transmission of brucellosis from elk to cattle in Idaho and Wyoming illustrates how brucellosis in wildlife in the GYA may negatively affect cattle. Eliminating brucellosis from this area is a challenge, because these animals are on public land and there are many viewpoints involved in the management of these animals.

[edit] Brucellosis in dogs

The causative agent of brucellosis in dogs is Brucella canis. It is transmitted to other dogs through breeding and contact with aborted fetuses. Brucellosis can occur in humans that come in contact with infected aborted tissue or semen. The bacteria in dogs normally infect the genitals and lymphatic system, but can also spread to the eye, kidney, and intervertebral disc (causing discospondylitis). Symptoms of brucellosis in dogs include abortion in female dogs and scrotal inflammation and orchitis (inflammation of the testicles) in males. Fever is uncommon. Infection of the eye can cause uveitis, and infection of the intervertebral disc can cause pain or weakness. Blood testing of the dogs prior to breeding can prevent the spread of this disease. It is treated with antibiotics, as with humans, but it is difficult to cure.[14]

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