Emergence of Brucella suis in dogs in New South Wales, Australia: clinical findings and implications for zoonotic transmission.
Background: Animal reservoirs of brucellosis constitute an ongoing threat to human health globally, with foodborne, occupational and recreational exposures creating opportunities for transmission. In Australia and the United States, hunting of feral pigs has been identified as the principal risk factor for human brucellosis due to Brucella suis. Following increased reports of canine B. suis infection, we undertook a review of case notification data and veterinary records to address knowledge gaps about transmission, clinical presentation, and zoonotic risks arising from infected dogs. Results: Between 2011 and 2015, there was a 17-fold increase in the number of cases identified (74 in total) in New South Wales, Australia. Spatial distribution of cases largely overlapped with high feral pig densities in the north of the state. Ninety per cent of dogs had participated directly in pig hunting; feeding of raw feral pig meat and cohabitation with cases in the same household were other putative modes of transmission. Dogs with confirmed brucellosis presented with reproductive tract signs (33%), back pain (13%) or lameness (10%); sub-clinical infection was also common (40%). Opportunities for dog-to-human transmission in household and occupational environments were identified, highlighting potential public health risks associated with canine B. suis infection. Conclusions: Brucellosis due to B. suis is an emerging disease of dogs in Australia. Veterinarians should consider this diagnosis in any dog that presents with reproductive tract signs, back pain or lameness, particularly if the dog has a history of feral pig exposure. Moreover, all people in close contact with these dogs such as hunters, household contacts and veterinary personnel should take precautions to prevent zoonotic transmission.