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Brucella canis – you may have incurable dog disease for years before symptoms

There have been two laboratory-confirmed cases of Brucella canis (B. canis) in people within the UK.

The first human case was detected following hospital admission; the woman affected had direct contact with abortion material from an imported dog.

Dr Hana Patel, NHS GP and Medico-Legal Expert Witness, said: “Individuals at greatest risk of exposure to B. canis are those who have contact with B. canis contaminated materials, either in their work as a vet or at home with a dog.”

Dr Patel said those who have underlying health conditions or who are immunocompromised are at greatest risk of the bacterial infection.

B. canis is a zoonotic disease, Dr Patel clarified, meaning the disease can spread from dogs to humans.

READ MORE… Woman becomes first person in the UK to contract incurable dog disease

“Breeders should consider the risk of B. canis and the testing of any newly introduced dog that will be used for breeding,” advised Dr Patel.

The infection in humans “can show no symptoms”, cautioned Dr Patel and, for those who do have symptoms, people can expect anything from fever to blood poisoning.

Symptoms of a B. canis infection in humans can include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Generally feeling unwell
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Weight loss.

Complications of the infection can include endocarditis, which is potentially fatal, osteomyelitis (bone infection), arthritis, meningitis and septicaemia.

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Dr Patel said: “It can take months, even years, before symptoms develop in chronically infected individuals.”

People can be tested for the bacteria via a blood test requested by their doctor.

There have been no documented reports of B. canis associated with fatality in humans.

The infection can be treated in humans with a course of antibiotics, Dr Patel confirmed.

“It is important to finish your course even if you start to feel better,” she asserted.

Dr Patel encouraged dog breeders, charities and organisations who import dogs from B. canis endemic countries to perform pre-export testing on the animals.

Countries described as “at risk” by the Centres for Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • Portugal
  • Spain
  • Southern France
  • Mexico
  • South and Central America
  • Eastern Europe
  • Asia
  • Africa
  • The Caribbean
  • The Middle East.

Dogs imported from other countries should be tested for B. canis, Dr Patel added.

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  • Posted on September 21, 2023