Schurig, Gerhardt G. Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, Center for Molecular Medicine and Infectious Disease, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Virginia.
Last reviewed:June 2021
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An infectious disease of various animals and humans caused by Brucella bacteria. Brucellosis (also known as Malta fever, Mediterranean fever, and undulant fever) is a significant disease of many animals. It affects numerous mammals, primarily cattle, dogs, goats, sheep, and pigs. Humans also can contract the disease zoonotically (that is, the disease is transmitted from animals to humans), although it is less prevalent among humans compared to the aforementioned animals. Each bacterial species of Brucella tends to preferentially infect a particular animal, but several types can infect humans. Brucella melitensis (which preferentially infects goats and sheep), B. suis (which infects pigs), and B. abortus (which infects cattle) are the most common causes of human brucellosis. Brucella melitensis is the most virulent type for humans, followed by B. suis and B. abortus. Brucella canis (see illustration) and B. ovis, which infect dogs and sheep, respectively, rarely infect humans. Although brucellosis is found all over the world, the disease has been eradicated in many countries. Brucella bacteria (brucellae) are small, Gram-negative coccobacilli. They are defined as facultative intracellular parasites because they are able to replicate within specialized cells of the host. See also: Bacteria; Bacteriology; Epidemiology; Infectious disease; Medical bacteriology; Microbiology; Parasitology; Zoonoses
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