With the advent of civilization, man has learnt to domesticate animals and use them for various purposes.

With the advent of civilization, man has learnt to domesticate animals and use them for various purposes.

This has improved his life in many ways but also brought some diseases for him. These diseases are the ones which are transmitted from animals to men. Brucellosis is also one of them. 

Brucellosis is caused by brucellae which are germs residing inside body cells of affected animals. There are 4 species, of which man is commonly affected by B.melitensis. It is a highly infectious illness.

Brucellosis also called “undulant fever”, or, “Malta fever” is caused by eating raw or uncooked meat or drinking uncooked milk.

It may also occur by direct contact with infected animals as in case of veterinians or butchers. Brucellae have a unique property to penetrate through intact human skin.

Therefore, infection can also be acquired by direct contact of hand with infectious material.

The disease is manifested by undulant fever, i.e. episodes of fever associated with afebrile phases. It is a chronic illness and may last from weeks to months. The fever is high with profuse sweating and musculoskeletal pains.

Any bone or joint can be affected. But the lumbar spine and sacroiliac joints are most commonly affected. Chronic infection can also affect the brain, causing headache, vomiting and paralysis of various body parts.

Diagnosis is made by X-rays showing the typical changes in the bones or biopsy of affected parts. Blood cultures also demonstrate the germs but it takes over 2 months to grow and demonstrate brucellae and it also poses a risk for the laboratory personnel.

Treatment is by suitable combination of anti infective agents like doxycycline, Rifampicin and streptomycin.

To prevent exposure to brucellosis, it is very important to see that the meat purchased should be from a reliable source selling “healthy” meat. It should be cooked very well.

Similarly, milk should never be consumed without being thoroughly boiled. After touching animals, washing hands well is essential to prevent any kind of germs gaining entry in the body. 

It is wise to prevent Brucellosis which is a chronic debilitating illness, robbing a man of his health and sometimes wealth.

The author is a specialist in Internal Medicine
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