Glanders - Highly contagious disease of adult equines

An infectious and highly contagious disease of adult equines (horses, mules and donkeys) having age of more than 5 years. This disease is characterized by formation of nodules and ulcers in upper respiratory passage, lungs and also in cutaneous tissue (farcy form).This is notifiable disease under Glanders and Farcy Act, 1899.

Causative agent

Burkholderia mallei is the causative agent of glanders, it is gram negative, bipolar, aerobic bacterium. It is potentially used as bio terrorism agent.

Transmission

It is transmitted through inhalation, ingestion, inoculation (through eyes and wounds) and through contaminated feed and water.

Clinical Signs

As incubation period of this organism is two weeks, mainly disease exists in two forms:
  • Acute form
  • Chronic form

Acute form

In this case Animal show severe septicemia that may lead to high rise of body temperature up to 106 Fahrenheit. Thick mucopuruluent nasal discharge and severe respiratory distress may be seen in this form. Death of diseased animal takes place within few days of infection.

Chronic Form

Diseased animal may live for more than one year and disseminate the organisms in this form. Nodules and ulcerative lesions are formed in internal nares, lungs and cutaneous tissue. In this case infected animal could have more than one forms of disease at a time. Chronic form includes three forms of disease:
  • Nasal
  • Pulmonary
  • Cutaneous (Farcy form)

Nasal Form

Nodules and ulcers found in the nasal septum and lower part of turbinate. Nodules ruptured and converted to ulcers with irregular borders and after the healing of ulcers there is typical star shape scar formation. Edema and enlargement of sub maxillary lymph nodes may be seen.

Pulmonary form

Tubercles containing calcified/ caseous pus are surrounded by inflammatory zones that are formed in lungs these tubercles rupture and pus ooze out and infection spread to upper respiratory track. In this case signs of pneumonia and broncho pneumonia may also be found.

Cutaneous (Farcy Form)

Nodules are formed along the lymphatic vessels mostly inside the thigh called farcy cords or farcy buds. These lesion rupture and form ulcers all over the skin.

Diagnosis

On the basis of History and clinical signs we could diagnose this case. We can also perform mallein test, culture and PCR.

Mallein Test

0.1ml mallein is injected into lower eyelid called intra palpebral injection. Then wait for 12 to 48 hours, if we found severe conjunctivitis then the animal is positive for glanders.

Treatment

Treatment is contra indicated in this case. Detection and elimination of confirmed cases. There is no vaccine for glanders.

Prevention and control:

  • Carcass of infected animal should be properly buried or the best way is incineration.
  • Premises should be properly disinfected.
  • Contaminated feed should be burnt properly.
  • Equipment should be properly disinfected.
  • Infected animal should be quarantined and then tested.

Zoonotic importance

Glanders is a rare but serious zoonotic disease. Most human cases came out as a result of direct contact with the causative agent through exposure with infected animals or through laboratory. Organism enters through skin if there is wound either on hands or arms. After few days of entry local suppuration and lymphadenopathy with fever and lethargy are initial signs. Systemic signs may be seen after few weeks of dissemination, including abscesses on the internal organs. There are 95% chances of mortality in untreated cases.
(Article Reference: MSD Veterinary Manual)
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