Brucellae through the food chain: The role of sheep, goats and springbok (Antidorcus marsupialis) as sources of human infections in Namibia
Aconfirmed case of human brucellosis motivated an investigation into the potential source of infection in Namibia. Since domestic animals are principal sources of Brucella infection in humans, 1692 serum samples were screened from sheep, goats and cattle from 4 presumably at-risk farms and 900 springbok (Antidorcas marsupialis) serum samples from 29 mixed farming units for Brucella antibodies by the Rose-Bengal test (RBT) and positive cases confirmed by complement fixation test (CFT). To assess the prevalence of human brucellosis, 137 abattoir employees were tested for Brucella antibodies using the standard tube agglutination test (STAT) and by enzyme linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Cattle and sheep from all 4 farms were negative by RBT and CFT but 2 of the 4 farms (Ba and C) had 26/42 and 12/285 seropositive goats, respectively. Post mortem examination of seropositive goats revealed no gross pathological lesions typical of brucellosis except enlarged mesenteric and iliac lymph nodes seen in a single buck. Culture for brucellae from organs of seropositive animals was negative. None of the wildlife sera tested positive by either RBT or CFT. Interviews revealed that besides the case that prompted the investigation, a family and another person from other farms with confirmed brucellosis shared a common history of consumption of unpasteurised goat milk, home-made goat cheese and coffee with raw milk and prior contact with goats, suggesting goats as the likely source of infection. All 137 abattoir employees tested negative by STAT, but 3 were positive by ELISA. The 3 abattoir workers were clinically normal and lacked historical connections with clinical cases. Although goats are often associated with B. melitensis, these studies could not explicitly implicate this species owing to cross-reactivity with B. abortus, which can also infect goats. Nevertheless, these data reinforce the need for a better National Control Programme for brucellosis in Namibia.