Childhood brucellosis--a microbiological, epidemiological and clinical study

J Trop Pediatr. 2004 Jun;50(3):153-7. doi: 10.1093/tropej/50.3.153.


A total of 5726 blood specimens (from children aged 14 years and younger) were studied for the serological evidence of brucellosis. Ninety-three (1.6 per cent) showed diagnostic agglutinin titres with a geometric mean titre of 403 (SD +/- 547). Forty-three (59.7 per cent) blood specimens yielded the growth of Brucella melitensis. Thirty-nine patients (41.93 per cent) were shepherds, who constituted the major occupational group affected in the present series. More than 60 per cent of the patients had a history of both consumption of fresh goat's milk and close animal contact. The habit of consuming fresh goat's milk to obtain relief from chronic ailments was noted in nine patients. Seventy-three (78.49 per cent) were males and 20 (21.51 per cent) were females, with a male to female ratio of 3:1. The disease occurred mainly in the school age group (mean age 10.3 years). All the patients had an acute history of less than 2 months. Forty-nine (52.68 per cent) patients presented with persistent fever, 19 (20.43 per cent) with joint pain, and the rest with a combination of fever and joint pain with and without low backache, fever being the commonest complaint. One case presented with involuntary movements of limbs alone and the other with burning feet only. Pityriasis alba was the consistent physical finding, with fever in the majority of the patients. The major joint found to be involved was the knee (52.77 per cent). The synovial fluid obtained from the knee joint of five patients demonstrated Brucella agglutinins and also three grew B. melitensis. Eight patients presented with complications that included skin lesions (3), carditis (2), neurobrucellosis such as chorea (1), peripheral neuritis (1), and meningitis (1). Brucella melitensis biotype 1 was successfully isolated from the papular eruption of one out of three cases who presented with skin lesions. To our knowledge this is the fourth confirmed isolation of B. melitensis from skin lesions with brucellosis, reported in the literature. The cerebrospinal fluid obtained from the meningitis patient was positive for B. agglutinins. To our knowledge chorea of brucellar origin appears to be the first case reported in the literature. In 15 cases (16.13 per cent) brucellosis was suspected clinically whereas 78 (83.87 per cent) cases, only serological evidence of brucellosis confirmed the diagnosis. None of the cases relapsed. In our experience an initial combination therapy with a three-drug regimen followed by a two-drug regimen for a minimum of 6 weeks has been found to be effective in the prevention of a relapse.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Animal Husbandry
  • Animals
  • Brucellosis / complications
  • Brucellosis / epidemiology*
  • Brucellosis / microbiology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Goats
  • Humans
  • India / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Milk / microbiology
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Distribution