Brucellosis

  • Medical Author:
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

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How do physicians diagnose brucellosis?

Brucellosis is diagnosed preliminarily by the patient's history of exposure to likely sources of Brucella bacteria and the patient's clinical symptoms. Confirmation of the diagnosis is made by culturing Brucella bacteria from the patient. In addition, there are serological tests for the organisms done on the patient's blood specimens. These tests look for IgM or IgG antibodies directed against the bacteria. However, the CDC recommends that these tests be confirmed by a Brucella-specific agglutination test, a specific test that is usually run by a specialty laboratory. These tests help differentiate brucellosis from leptospirosis, malaria, tularemia, and other diseases that may produce similar symptoms.

What are brucellosis treatments?

According to the CDC, doxycycline (Vibramycin, Oracea, Adoxa, Atridox) and rifampin (Rifadin) are the recommended antibiotics, taken in combination, for a minimum of six to eight weeks to treat infected patients. This long treatment time is due to the organism's ability to survive inside human cells; consequently, the CDC recommends that a firm diagnosis be established before long-term antibiotic treatment is begun. Individuals who are immunosuppressed and pregnant patients, in most cases, should be treated in consultation with an infectious-disease specialist.

What is the prognosis of brucellosis?

In general, the prognosis for patients infected with Brucella is very good. If individuals are treated appropriately within the first few months of symptom onset, they are curable with antibiotics and usually don't develop chronic disease. The symptoms usually improve and are completely gone within about two to six months. However, the prognosis is poor in people who present with organ changes such as an heart damage caused by chronic Brucella infection. The mortality (death) rate is low for brucellosis (about 2%).

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/23/2015

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