Last Reviewed: July 2017
What is glanders?
Glanders is an infectious disease caused by the bacterium Burkholderia mallei. Glanders is primarily a disease affecting horses, but it also affects donkeys, mules, goats, dogs, and cats. Since the 1940s, glanders has occurred rarely and sporadically among laboratory workers and people handling infected animals including veterinarians, caretakers, and slaughterhouse workers.
Who gets glanders?
Glanders is not normally found in the United States. Travelers may be exposed to glanders in areas where the disease is found including: Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and Central and South America. Since the 1940s, cases in the U.S. have occurred rarely and sporadically among laboratory workers and people handling infected animals including veterinarians, caretakers, and slaughterhouse workers.
How is glanders spread?
Glanders is spread to humans by direct contact with infected animals. The bacteria enters the body through cuts or scrapes in the skin and through mucosal surfaces of the eyes and nose. Although very rare, glanders may additionally spread from one person to another through the bodily fluids of an infected person.
What are the symptoms of glanders and when do they appear?
The symptoms of glanders depend upon how the organism enters the body. The types of infection include localized, pulmonary (lung) infections, bloodstream infections, and chronic infections. Common symptoms of glanders include fever with chills and sweating, muscle aches, chest pain, muscle tightness, and headache. Additional symptoms may include excessive tearing of the eyes, light sensitivity, ulcers, and diarrhea (loose stool/poop). Symptoms can develop 1 to 5 days after infection.
How is glanders diagnosed?
The disease is diagnosed by finding the bacterium Burkholderia mallei in blood, saliva, urine, or skin lesions.
What is the treatment for glanders?
Because human cases of glanders are rare, there is limited information about antibiotic treatment of the disease in humans. The antibiotic sulfadiazine has been found to be effective in animals and in humans. The bacterium that causes glanders is usually sensitive to many other classes of antibiotics.
What can be done to prevent the spread of glanders?
There is no vaccine available for glanders. In countries where glanders is found in animals, prevention of the disease in humans involves identification and elimination of the infection in the animal population. Within the health care setting, transmission can be prevented by using common blood and body fluid precautions such as wearing gloves, protective eyewear, and gowns.