A study conducted by Gabriel Tumwine, a CARTA fellow at Makerere University in Uganda, has revealed that human brucellosis is a significant public health problem among pastoralists, yet it has been neglected by researchers. The risk of being infected by this disease is aggravated by consumption of unpasteurized milk products. Brucellosis popularly known as the milk disease is a bacterial disease caused by Brucella abortus. The disease leads to spontaneous abortion in infected cattle and is transmissible to humans.
In humans, the symptoms of the disease are strikingly similar to those of malaria with fever, headache, malaise, and vomiting. Aware that brucellosis remains a neglected zoonotic disease in Uganda, Gabriel Tumwine, a Cohort 2 CARTA Fellow, led a cross-sectional study to determine the sero-prevalence and risk factors associated with human brucellosis in communities where livestock rearing is a common practice. The country-wide study revealed that individuals that are in agro-pastoral communities and consume milk and milk products are at higher risk.
Gabriel Tumwine, Cohort 2 CARTA Fellow
According to the study results, in Uganda, human Brucella sero-prevalence was at 17.0% and is higher among males at 20.5%. Sex, age, occupation, religion, education levels, knowledge of the disease, keeping animals at home, processing local milk products, slaughter of animals, handling of abortus, assisting animals giving birth, drinking of animal’s urine and sharing water points with animals were not significantly associated with brucellosis.
Being single puts you at a higher risk of getting this disease. This is because, according to the study, of the lifestyle that single people adopt. Single people tend to eat food that is easy to prepare. Milk and milk products that have been locally processed are readily available and need little time to prepare and hence an option for many single people. Moreover, single people, in many communities are often charged with the responsibility of looking after animals in livestock keeping areas and most cases end up consuming unpasteurized milk products. These put single people at a higher risk of acquiring Brucella abortus.
The study recommends that there is a need to initiate screening and early treatment of infected humans and a much higher need of awareness creation amongst the public about brucellosis.