Brucella

Background

Brucellosis is a rare disease in the UK and most cases are acquired abroad, in particular:

  • Middle East
  • Asia
  • South America
  • Central America

Brucella melitensis is transmitted to humans from sheep and goats, Brucella abortus is transmitted from cattle, and Brucella suis from pigs. It's also spread to humans through direct or indirect contact with the infected animals. In some marine mammals, two Brucella species have been isolated, these are:

  • Brucella ceti
  • Brucella pinnipedialis

A few human cases of brucellosis have been reported with these marine species of Brucella.

In the UK, brucellosis has effectively been wiped out from cattle, goats, sheep and pigs. This has been through:

  • vaccination of animals
  • testing and slaughter of infected herds
  • pasteurisation of milk

When infection does happen, it's usually through:

  • consumption of unpasteurised milk from infected animals
  • consumption of unpasteurised milk products such as cheese from infected animals
  • eating raw meat from infected animals
  • direct contact with infected animals
  • inhalation of dust on farms with infected animals, in abattoirs or laboratories

Information about the symptoms of brucellosis is available on the NHS website.

Guidance

Information on the safe handling of food is available on the Food Standards Scotland website.

Publications

Read the Human Animal Infections and Risk Surveillance (HAIRS) group risk assessment on marine mammal Brucella species on the Public Health England (PHE) website.