f/Colour TEM of Brucella abortus bacteria. © Science Photo Library

Brucellosis is an infection caused by Brucella bacteria. Brucellosis is acquired from direct or indirect contact with infected animals or contaminated animal products (including unpasteurised milk and dairy products). Symptoms appear within 5-60 days of infection and include:

  • fever
  • weakness
  • joint pain
  • infections in the brain
  • infection of the heart valves

Key facts

Risk for people 

If the disease is not treated, it may become chronic or even lead to death.

How it spreads 

Brucellosis spreads to humans from animals, particularly sheep, goats and cattle and rarely from dogs and pigs through direct or indirect contact. Brucellosis occurs worldwide, but in the EU it is mostly reported in some southern European countries. .

Protective measures

Prolonged antibiotic treatment is usually effective. It is possible to also prevent brucellosis, through:

  • animal vaccination
  • test and slaughter of infected animals
  • pasteurisation of milk and dairy products