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Brucellosis in Animals and Human Population in India

Brucellosis in Animals and Human Population in India

Sandeep Gulia*,1, K.L. Dahiya1, Jasvir Singh Panwar2, Dharmender Kumar3


* Corresponding author : drsgulia@gmail.com; 1. Veterinary Surgeon, Kurukshetra (Haryana) 2. Sub Divisional Officer (AH&D), Thanesar; 3. Deputy Director, Animal husbandry & Dairying, Kurukshetra (Haryana).


Brucellosis has been an emerging disease since the discovery of Brucella melitensis by Bruce in 1887. It is a bacterial contagious disease caused by Brucella spp. in cattle, buffalo, sheep, goats and pigs with significant economic impact. Brucellosis is an occupational zoonotic disease transmitted from infected animals to humans.

It causes huge losses among humans and livestock in India. The annual median losses due to human brucellosis were estimated to be Rs 62.75 crore (Singh et al 2018). In Indian livestock, brucellosis causes a median loss of Rs 20400 crore (Singh et al 2015). In Punjab, Brucellosis causes annual median economic loss of Rs 36.25 lakh in cattle and Rs 1.12 crore in buffaloes (Gulia et al 2019)

Clinical signs in animals

  • Main symptoms in animals include abortion in pregnant animals in later half (mostly) of gestation, resulting in retention of placenta with metritis and milk reduction (Acha et al. 2003) with fewer abortions (4.34%) during first half of gestation (Aulakh et al. 2008). Santos et al 2013 found that death of aborted dam; prenatal mortality and infertility also contribute to economic losses in cattle.
  • Generally, some animals may abort more than once in lifespan. There may be swelling of the testicles in males, and sometimes, the bacteria localize in the joints causing arthritis (OIE 2019). In the chronic stage, hygromas and inflammation of the joints can be observed.

Clinical signs in Human

  • Brucellosis in human shows nonspecific symptoms like fever, night sweats, insomnia, asthenia, headache and anorexia (Hasanjani Roushan and Ebrahimpour 2015).
  • The overlapping clinical signs and symptoms with many other bacterial diseases (Pathak et al. 2014) and malaria (Cadmus et al. 2006) result in misdiagnosis and underreporting of human brucellosis.
  • About 5,00,000 humans are reported affected annually with human brucellosis worldwide and unreported cases might be 10 times more due to non-specific clinical symptoms (Godfroid et al. 2013).

Transmission and spread

  • Domestic livestock or wildlife reservoirs are the source of human brucellosis infection via food-borne route or direct contact (Godfroid et al. 2005). Brucellosis is typically spread when the animal aborts or gives birth.
  • High levels of bacteria are found in the birth fluids of an infected animal. The bacteria can survive outside the animal in the environment for several months, particularly in cool moist conditions. They remain infectious to other animals which become infected by ingesting the bacteria. The bacteria also colonise the udder and contaminate the milk (OIE 2019).
  • The disease can also infect animals and humans through cuts in the skin, or through mucous membranes (OIE 2019). Drinking of unpasteurized milk and milk products is major source of transmission to the public (Almuneef et al. 2004).
  • Farm workers and occupational workers including veterinarians, para-vets, and butchers have increased risk of acquiring the infection (Shome et al. 2017) through contact with aborted foetal material or placentas.
  • Easily acquired as laboratory infections and strict safety precautions should be observed during cultures handling and heavily infected samples, such as aborted materials (OIE 2019).


  • The disease may be suspected based on clinical signs such as abortions, but confirmation is made through serological testing like ELISA and RBPT.

Treatment in animals

  • No antimicrobial treatment is effective.
  • We can take steps for prevention and control only.

Treatment in human

  • Although majority of the antimicrobials are resistant to Brucella bacterium, however, combinations of antibiotics are used for more than 6 weeks.

Prevention and Control

  • Vaccination of bovine female animals of age between 4 to 8 months is recommended for prevention.
  • Raw milk should not be used for drinking. Milk should be properly boiled or pasteurized before consumption.
  • Government of India has launched NADCP (National Animal Disease Control Programme) for prevention and control of Brucellosis in India.

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  1. Acha, N.P., Szyfres, B., 2003. Zoonoses and Communicable Diseases Common to Man and Animals, fourth ed., vol. 1, Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Washington, DC.
  2. Almuneef, M.A., Memish, Z.A., Balkhy, H.H., Alotaibi, B., Algoda, S., Abbas, M. and Alsubaie, S., 2004. Importance of screening household members of acute brucellosis cases in endemic areas. Epidemiol Infect, 132(3), 533-40. [Web Reference]
  3. Aulakh, H.K., Patil, P.K., Sharma, S., Kumar H., Mahajan, K. and Sandhu, K.S., 2008. A Study on the Epidemiology of Bovine Brucellosis in Punjab (India) using Milk-ELISA. Acta Vet. Brno, 77:393-399. [Web Reference]
  4. Cadmus, S.I.B., Ijagbone, I.F., Oputa, H.E., Adesokan, H.K. and Stack, J.A., 2006. Serological Survey of Brucellosis in Livestock Animals and Workers in Ibadan, Nigeria. African Journal of Biomedical Research, Vol. 9; 163 – 168. [Web Reference]
  5. Godfroid, J., Al Dahouk, S., Pappas, G., Roth, F., Matope, G., Muma, J., Marcotty, T., Pfeiffer, D. and Skjerve, E., 2013. A “One Health” surveillance and control of brucellosis in developing countries: Moving away from improvisation. Comparative Immunology, Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, 36(3), 241-248. [Web Reference]
  6. Gulia, S., 2019. The burden of Brucellosis in Punjab, India: assessment of public health impact and livestock production losses. MSc Veterinary Epidemiology Project Report. Royal Veterinary College, University of London. [Web Reference]
  7. Hasanjani Roushan, M.R. and Ebrahimpour, S., 2015. Human brucellosis: An overview. Caspian J Intern Med, 6(1), 46-47. [Web Reference]
  8. OIE, 2019. Brucellosis. OIE, World Organization for Animal Health. Accessed on October 6, 2019. [Web Reference]
  9. Pathak, A.D., Dubal, Z.B., Doijad, S., Raorane, A., Rodrigues, S., Naik, R., Naik-Gaonkar, S., Kalorey, D.R., Kurkure, N.V. and Barbuddhe, S.B., 2014. Human brucellosis among pyrexia of unknown origin cases and occupationally exposed individuals in Goa Region, India. Emerg Health Threats J, 7, 23846. http://dx.doi.org/10.3402/ehtj.v7.23846. [Web Reference]
  10. Santos, R.L., Martins, T.M., Borges, A.M. and Paixao, T.A., 2013. Economic losses due to bovine brucellosis in Brazil. Perq. Vet. Bras., 33(6) , pp.759-764. [Web Reference]
  11. Singh, B.B., Dhand, N.K. and Gill, J.P., 2015. Economic losses occurring due to brucellosis in Indian livestock populations. Prev Vet Med, 119(3-4), 211-5. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.prevetmed.2015.03.013. [Web Reference]
  12. Singh, B.B., Khatkar, M.S., Aulakh, R.S., Gill, J.P.S. and Dhand, N.K., 2018. Estimation of the health and economic burden of human brucellosis in India. Prev Vet Med, 154, 148-155. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.prevetmed.2018.03.023. [Web Reference]

Citation : Gulia, S., Dahiya, K.L., Panwar, J.S. and Kumar, D., (2019) Brucellosis Disease in Animals and Human Population in India. Dissemination of Knowledge. Leaflet. Online published on October 7, 2019.  www.dkart.in p. 5.

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