Glanders

Also Known As

Lymphangitis-like abscesses

Description

Glanders, once common throughout the world, is a highly contagious disease caused by the bacteria Burkholderia mallei. Programs to eradicate the disease have been successful in many countries, including the United States.

Glanders causes respiratory infection and skin lesions in horses and humans. The disease is spread through close contact with other horses and by contaminated objects, such as brushes and tack. If glanders is suspected, contact a veterinarian immediately. Being aware of the symptoms is important in case of an outbreak in the United States.

The bacteria Burkholderia mallei remains viable for up to a month, and some authorities believe it can survive for more than a year in a favorable environment. The infection or localized disease usually becomes apparent after one to five days. The pulmonary form develops after ten to fourteen days.

Symptoms

  • Yellow-green nasal discharge
  • Ulcers on the nose
  • Enlarged lymph nodes and nodules on the skin, surrounded by inflammation
  • Coughing
  • Fever and sweating
  • Rash with pustules and abscesses
  • Abscesses in internal organs
  • Weight loss

Causes

Glanders is caused by the Burkholderia mallei organism. Humans can get glanders through direct contact with an infected animal. The bacteria enters through skin wounds or cuts or through the mucous membranes of the eyes and nose.

Prevention

There is no vaccine available for glanders, so awareness of the signs and symptoms will help a great deal in the event an outbreak should begin in the United States.

If an animal is suspected of having glanders, it should be quarantined immediately. A veterinarian must be called to confirm and treat the disease. Burkholderia mallei is susceptible to many common disinfectants, including iodine, mercuric chloride in alcohol, sodium hydrochloride, 70% ethanol, etc. The organism can also be destroyed by heat or with ultraviolet irradiation.

Treatment

Glanders can be diagnosed by culturing discharge from lesions or by biochemical tests, although the tests take longer. Antibiotics are used in treatment of the disease, but the organism is often resistant to some antibiotics and multiple drugs may be necessary. Abscesses should be drained and treated appropriately. The mortality rate for glanders is high when effective antibiotics are not given.

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