Brucellosis is caused by Brucella. Symptoms of the disease are diverse and characterized by multi-organ damage. Brucellosis is much more common than we can realize. The most insidious and clever of all the co-infections of the Lyme disease, which also has evolved a somehow magical survival mechanism. It lives in the immune system, in macrophage cells that are ironically responsible for our defense against infections.
Brucella is transmitted to humans by ticks, fleas, flies and mosquitoes. We can also get infected with it by eating foods contaminated with brucellosis, as a result of wounding the skin and through the respiratory tract, due to the inhalation of bacteria particles during contact with an infected animal. This disease is also transmitted through sexual contact. It can take the form of a sharp, subacute and chronic form.
Poland has been recognized as a brucellosis-free country, this disease practically does not occur in animals. New cases are relatively rare, however there are many people suffering from a chronic form of this disease. It was not until 2010 that it was added to the list of Lyme coinfections and since then its significant increase has been recorded.
The insect pumps the plague straight into the bloodstream and from there Brucella bacteria migrate to regional lymph nodes where they reproduce. Now just wait for the macrophages that are found in every organ throughout the body, for example in the liver, brain, spleen, lymphatic system, lungs, heart, intestine, even in the placenta, everywhere, so it’s not difficult to notice that the infection affects many organs and causes a lot of serious symptoms.
The incubation period for Brucella can range from several days to many months. When Brucella bacteria are released into the blood, flu-like symptoms often occur, such as low-grade fever, muscle pain and malaise. After this initial stage of symptoms, the bacteria migrate into the macrophage complex and go into the second stage of infection, which after non-treatment becomes chronic and causes a wide spectrum of disturbing symptoms, such as: chills, sometimes fever, sweats (smell of wet hay), loss of appetite, weight loss , abdominal pain, headache, fatigue, enlarged liver or spleen, enlarged lymph nodes, weakness, joint pain, body aches, irritability, depression, chest pain, cough and shortness of breath.
The disease can harass the patient for years, but sometimes it attacks the nervous system and in a few percent infected, it transforms into neurobrucelosis. Then the symptoms are very worrying. Extremely long headaches lasting for many days or months, dizziness, ringing in the ears, optic neuritis, peripheral neuropathy with a feeling of stinging or numbness, tremors, unsteady walking and weakness, changes in behavior, personality changes, psychosis, impulsivity, loss memory, changes in personal and social awareness, anxiety, irritability, distraction, panic and depression. Persistently, the symptoms can sometimes disappear for a few weeks or months and then come back twice as bad.
The “golden standard” in the diagnosis of brucellosis is culture, that is, the cultivation of bacteria from a blood sample, but it requires a long period and often fails. For blood culture to detect a real infection, bacteria must circulate in the bloodstream, and this is rare. More often we rely on intermediate tests that study the production of antibodies, which is called the serum agglutination test (SAT). This is a test available in most laboratories. Studies have shown, however, that this test is not the most accurate because it often gives false positive results. There is another type of test that is much more sensitive and specific – this is a PCR test that detects fragments of bacterial DNA. However, it is not widely available and is not recognized by the CDC, i.e. in Poland too. Thus, for us to confirm the disease remain serological tests, i.e. a notorious – ELISA test, which aims to detect specific antibodies. The test is unfortunately only sensitive when talking about acute or subacute disease.
Brucellosis is a multi-layered infection that causes inflammation that can disrupt the brain stem, thalamus and limbic systems or any other areas of the brain that control the systems of our body, causing paresis and paralysis.