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Study: Illness can pass from dog to human and may affect pregnancy

A new study from a research team out of Texas A&M University suggests that the Brucellosis, a bacterial infection spread by livestock and dogs who can still reproduce, might be able to spread to humans.

According to a HealthDay report on the study, which appeared in Emerging Infectious Diseases, it is the strain of bacterium found specifically in dogs called Brucella canis (B. canis) that could be particularly risky to humans, potentially causing flu-like symptoms and negative effects on pregnancy.

The illness could also “cause long-term or recurring symptoms, such as arthritis, swelling of the testicles, swelling of the heart, neurologic symptoms and chronic fatigue,” according to the report.

“We don’t really know how prevalent this disease is in the United States,” lead researcher and Texas A&M veterinarian Martha Hensel told HealthDay about the study. “The information we have to draw conclusions on the public health risk is outdated, to say the least — something like 30 to 40 years old.”

The study’s researchers believe the illness could spread from intact dogs to humans through contact with the canine’s urine or reproductive organs, which means vets, shelter workers and others who come in close contact with dogs who have not been spayed or neutered could be at risk of contracting the disease, though it is still seems unlikely unless the human’s immune system is compromised in some way.

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“An average, healthy adult would probably not contract this disease unless they were exposed to a really high concentration of bacteria,” Hensel added.

If you believe you could have come in contact with a dog carrying Brucellosis, the CDC recommends visiting your doctor.

“Laboratory tests and a short course of antibiotics also known as post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) may be recommended,” the CDC writes on its website. “Prompt diagnosis and treatment of Brucellosis during pregnancy can be lifesaving for the fetus.”

Hensel hopes that this study encourages the development of tools to test the presence of the B.canis bacteria in dogs and humans to prevent the further spread of Brucellosis and lead to treatment for the humans and animals who do have it.

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