Known since ancient times, glanders is a contagious and fatal bacterial disease (Burkholderia mallei) affecting horses.

Glanders and animals

Cattle, sheep and pigs are resistant to the Burkholderia malleibacterium. By contrast, camels, goats, bears, wolves, dogs, cats, as well as felids living in zoos and whose diet consists of infected carcasses can contract the disease, with a mortality rate approaching 95%.

Glanders and humans

TheBurkholderia mallei bacterium can infect humans, with a particularly high mortality rate. It is therefore considered a bioterrorism agent and can only be isolated in laboratories with a bio-safety level 3, which is the highest level.

Notifiable disease?

Cases of glanders in animals must be notified.

In humans, glanders is a notifiable disease in Flanders and in Wallonia.

Information for health professionals

Horses become infected by the oral route before developing a chronic or acute fatal form of the disease, which is manifested by pulmonary, cutaneous or bone nodular abscesses, cutaneous ulcers discharging a pus with an oily consistency (“farcy oil”), a nasal discharge with star-shaped septal scars, and hypertrophy of the firm and adherent, hypertrophied submaxillary ganglia (“glands”).

The complement fixation test and malleinization are prescribed for international trade. Malleinization, based on a purified protein derivative of B. mallei, may be performed by subcutaneous, ophthalmic, palpebral or intradermal route. However, all these routes, with the exception of the ophthalmic route, induce seroconversion.

Sciensano hosts the Belgian National Reference Laboratory (NRL) for glanders.

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