What are the risks of contracting Brucella canis, a bacterial infection from dogs

Three people in Great Britain have been infected with a canine distemper which is now spreading between dogs for the first time in Britain.

Brucella canis, a bacterial infection, is an incurable disease in dogs and can lead to infertility, lameness and pain in dogs.

But the UK’s Health Security Agency has now confirmed that three Britons have also contracted the disease from infected animals, the first such cases ever found in Britain.

And in another first Government experts today revealed that they have now noticed the disease spreading among animals in Britain, albeit at low levels.

The previously found cases were isolated incidents among animals imported from areas such as Eastern Europe, where the disease is endemic.

Three of the human cases of Brucella canis have been identified in Britain since 2022, health chiefs said.

The number of cases among dogs in Britain has also skyrocketed, with a record 91 this year.

Brucella canis is a canine disease that mainly occurs in animals imported from Eastern Europe, but can also infect humans (stock image)

Dr. Christine Middlemisssaid chief veterinary officer at the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). The Telegraph: ‘There has been spread from a case in Britain to another dog in Britain. This is done through breeding in kennels.

‘There’s not much, there’s very little. But that’s new for us.’

These British-born cases of Brucella canis came from British dogs that had had contact with an imported dog or were offspring of an imported dog.

This means the disease is not considered endemic in Britain and is still officially classified as low risk.

Human Animal Infections and Risk Surveillance (HAIRS), an intergovernmental group, today published a report on the risk posed by Brucella canis.

HAIRS found that there is a ‘very low’ risk of someone from the population becoming infected.

However, dog breeders, people who work at vets or kennels and owners of infected dogs are slightly more at risk of exposure ? but this is still classified as ‘low’, the HAIRS report said.

The group also found that while the health risks of Brucella canis infection were generally low, serious cases with life-threatening complications had been reported and that immunocompromised individuals could be at greater risk.

A total of three human cases have been confirmed in Britain, of which the HAIRS report describes two.

The first was discovered after he went to the hospital for his symptoms, while the second was found in an asymptomatic individual who worked at a veterinarian and was routinely tested after contact with an infected dog.

HAIRS advised dog breeders and charities importing dogs from abroad to carry out tests for the disease before exporting.

They also recommended that vets treating dogs imported from abroad use appropriate PPE to minimize the risk of possible infection.

Dr. Middlemiss said the government is currently considering introducing a mandatory testing requirement for dogs imported from Brucella canis hotspots.

?We are gathering the evidence, various risk assessments are adding to that evidence and we will consider it,? she said.

Although Brucella canis infection is not a death sentence for animals, it is considered a lifelong disease, for which there is no cure.

This is because the bacteria behind the disease can remain dormant in the dog even after treatment, meaning they remain potentially contagious.

Therefore, euthanasia is the only way to guarantee further transmission of the disease.

HAIRS said the decision about euthanasia is a matter for the animal owner and their veterinarian, and their willingness to accept the risks that come from continued exposure to the animal.

Brucella canis infections among dogs in Britain are on the rise.

The bacterial infection can jump to humans, although serious illness is rare.  In the photo the Brucella canis under a microscope

The bacterial infection can jump to humans, although serious illness is rare. In the photo the Brucella canis under a microscope

In 2020 there were only 9 cases, but the following year this rose to 36 and in 2022 to 55.

According to HAIRS, 91 cases have been identified in Britain since July this year.

Clinical information was available for 22 of the cases, with 19 dogs having no symptoms, one with spinal inflammation and the other two with back pain.

What is Brucella canis?

Brucella canis is a bacterial infection that can infect both dogs and humans.

In dogs it can lead to infertility, lameness and pain.

However, there is no cure and the recommended treatment is euthanasia or long-term use of antibiotics, although a dog can still be contagious even when on medication.

The disease spreads in dogs through exposure to infected bodily fluids.

People can contract the disease through exposure to the same contaminated body fluids, with people who work with multiple animals, such as veterinarians and kennel staff, being most at risk.

In humans, Brucella canis generally causes mild and general flu-like symptoms, making diagnosis difficult.

It rarely causes serious illness, but cases of dangerous infections in the heart, bones, brain tissue and blood have been recorded in humans.

However, no deaths have been reported in the medical literature.

In humans, the disease is often treated with antibiotics and although this is theoretically possible, there are no known cases of human-to-human transmission.

The disease is not endemic to Britain, with cases in Britain mainly coming from animals imported from elsewhere, particularly Eastern Europe.

All but one of these dogs had been imported into Britain, with most coming from Romania (14).

The remaining case came from a puppy at an unlicensed breeding farm in Wales, where 21 dogs were subsequently also found to have the infection.

All other cases found so far this year involved imported dogs.

HAIRS said an increase in awareness of the disease among UK vets, and therefore testing for it, is likely behind the increase in cases.

The number of tests has also increased, with 5,773 tests carried out between January and July this year, compared to just 1,332 in 2018.

Romania is one of the largest sources of imported dogs into Britain, with more than 70,000 animals imported into Britain in 2020 and 2021.

Last year, only 10,000 animals were imported from Romania due to concerns about an increase in diseases due to the conflict in neighboring Ukraine.

Signs of Brucella canis in dogs include infertility, swollen testicles in males, lethargy, premature aging and lameness due to back pain.

However, some dogs may not show obvious signs of infection.

In humans, Brucella canis generally causes mild and general flu-like symptoms, making diagnosis difficult.

The disease can also strike years after the initial infection and can occasionally recur for several years.

There have also been reports of dangerous complications due to Brucella canis infection in humans.

These include serious infections of the heart, bones, brain tissue and blood. However, no fatal case of Brucella canis has been recorded in humans.

Transmission of the disease between humans is theoretically possible through routes such as blood transfusion, but there are no known cases of this occurring in the medical literature.

Dr. Middlemiss told MailOnline that: ‘We continue to work closely with our colleagues at UKHSA, dog welfare groups and vets to minimize the risks and recommend that potential owners ensure that any dog ??imported from regions where Brucella canis is present is checked before arrival tested.’

Wendi Shepherd, head of Emerging Infections and Zoonoses at UKHSA, added: ‘We have seen a small number of cases of Brucella canis in people in Britain this year.

‘However, the risk to the general public in Britain is very low and the risk to people who have had close contact with an infected dog is low.

‘Of the small number of cases of the infection reported in humans worldwide, the infection is usually mild, but people who have weakened immune systems, are pregnant or have young children may be more likely to develop a more serious infection.’