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Symptoms And Treatment Of Brucellosis

The incubation period of Brucella—the time from exposure to the bacteria to the start of symptoms—is typically about three weeks. The primary complaints are weakness and fatigue. An infected person may also experience muscle aches, fever, and chills.

The course of the disease reflects the location of the Brucella bacteria within the human host. Soon after the Brucella are introduced into the bloodstream, the bacteria seek out the nearest lymph nodes and invade the lymph node cells. From the initial lymph node, the Brucella spread out to other organ targets, including the spleen, bone marrow, and liver. Inside these organs, the infected cells form granulomas.

Diagnosing brucellosis involves culturing the blood, liver, or bone marrow for Brucella organisms. A positive culture alone does not signify brucellosis, since persons who have been treated for the disease may continue to harbor Brucella bacteria for several months. Confirmation of brucellosis, therefore, includes a culture positive for Brucella bacteria as well as evidence of the characteristic symptoms and a history of possible contact with infected milk or other animal products.

In humans, brucellosis caused by B. abortus is a mild disease that resolves itself without treatment. Brucellosis caused by B. melitensis and B. suis, however, is chronic and severe. Brucellosis is treated with administration of an antibiotic that penetrates host cells to destroy the invasive bacteria.

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