Brucellosis is a bacterial zoonosis caused by bacteria of the Brucellagenus. In humans, it is also called Malta fever. At the global level, its impact is major; it is estimated that nearly 500,000 people are infected each year.

Brucellosis and animals

Brucellosis is a pathology that can affect all species of farmed mammals (cattle, goats, sheep, pigs). The main clinical signs are abortion and reproductive disorders. The bacterium is present massively in the calving products of the infected animals and is also present in milk. Brucellosis is also described in dogs. Several wild mammal species are also at risk of infection by bacteria of the Brucella genus.

Brucellosis and humans

Human contamination is mainly caused by ingestion of infected small ruminant milk. Handling the runt can also be a source of infection. It is important to note that the manipulation of the germ in the laboratory is also a source of significant contamination.

In humans, brucellosis causes an influenza-like illness (fever, joint pain, etc.), which can lead to serious complications such as endocarditis, encephalitis or arthritis.. The difficulty of the diagnosis is related to a very varied symptomatology and the availability of a high-quality serological diagnosis in laboratories.

Notifiable disease?

Cases of brucellosis in animals must be notified. In humans, brucellosis is a notifiable disease in Flanders and in Wallonia.

Information for health professionals

Handling Brucella in the clinical biology or research laboratory is a significant risk factor in our country. To control this risk, this handling must be done according to strict biosafety rules.

Working with infected farm animals can also be a source of contamination. In this context, slaughterhouse staff, veterinarians and farmers are potentially exposed. However, as brucellosis in livestock is rare, this risk is low in Belgium.


Sciensano hosts the brucellosis national reference laboratory (NRL) for animal brucellosis and the national reference centre (CNR) for human brucellosis.

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