The persistence of Brucella melitensis in experimentally infected ewes through three reproductive cycles

J Vet Med B Infect Dis Vet Public Health. 2005 Nov;52(9):403-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1439-0450.2005.00885.x.


The authors studied the persistence of infection in 46 ewes experimentally infected with Brucella melitensis biovar 3 and monitored through three subsequent reproductive cycles. The entire experimental period lasted for 151 weeks. Infection of ewes and elimination of Brucella in milk, or its presence in vaginal discharges, persisted throughout the duration of the trial, as demonstrated by recurrent elimination of Brucella in milk and vaginal discharges. Brucella melitensis was recovered from the tissues of one ewe killed at the end of the trial. The strain was recovered from vaginal swabs and milk following parturition in the third reproductive cycle from an ewe that had aborted in the first cycle but was not pregnant in the second cycle. From a public health point of view, the periodical recovery of Brucella from the milk during the entire trial period illustrated that brucellosis in sheep remains a continuous occupational risk and a significant public health problem for consumers of fresh milk and milk products. That risk may persist for at least 3 years following the initial infection of the flock. Lamb antibody titres became negative in all lambs within 5 months after birth. This suggested that serological tests on lambs may have no practical diagnostic significance if performed during the first 5 months of life. Nevertheless, the birth of three infected lambs suggested that the phenomenon of latent carrier state may represent another way for B. melitensis to persist in a flock.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Bacterial / biosynthesis
  • Bacteremia / microbiology
  • Bacteremia / veterinary
  • Brucella melitensis / immunology
  • Brucella melitensis / isolation & purification*
  • Brucellosis / microbiology
  • Brucellosis / transmission
  • Brucellosis / veterinary*
  • Disease Transmission, Infectious / veterinary
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infectious Disease Transmission, Vertical / veterinary
  • Milk / microbiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Sheep
  • Sheep Diseases / transmission*
  • Vagina / microbiology
  • Zoonoses*


  • Antibodies, Bacterial