The Lanzhou Brucella Leak: The Largest Laboratory Accident in the History of Infectious Diseases?
An inadequacy in sanitizing processes in a biopharmaceutical plant in Lanzhou, China, during July and August 2019, led to the aerosolization of Brucellathat was subsequently spread through wind to nearby settlements and academic institutes, resulting in >10 000 human brucellosis cases, as of November 2020. The leak, possibly the largest laboratory accident in the history of infectious diseases, underlines the particular characteristics of Brucella that have made the pathogen a historical entity in biodefense research and a major cause of laboratory-associated infections. It further underlines the need for enhanced vigilance and strict regulatory interventions in similar facilities.
Oh goody, the fun just never ends.
Brucella should sound familiar to Lyme/MSIDS patients because it’s a cousin to Bartonella, and like most coinfections has many strains that can cause human disease. It is considered an “eternal” microbe due to the fact its DNA persists for years after clinical cure. Further, in patients that relapse, no statistically significant difference was found in their bacterial load vs asymptomatic patients, indicating yet another stealth pathogen virtually impossible to find or eradicate.
Brucella has infected prosthetic joints, the heart, liver, spleen, intracellularly, and virtually every organ in the body. It can cause arthritis, swelling of the testicle and scrotum, heart issue, neurological symptoms, chronic fatigue, and depression.
And of course, it garners attention for being a biowarfare agent.
Like so many other pathogens in the Lyme/MSIDS army, it requires prolonged, combined treatment that often fails resulting in relapse.
Routes of infection include eating or drinking infected meat or dairy products, inhalation, and through skin wounds or mucus membranes. However, it’s been found in eggs, larvae, engorged females, and in other ticks:
The presence of DNA from several Brucella species were detected in ticks using real-time PCR assay. Histopathological examination showed ticks cause significant damage to skin and hides by inducing degenration of the epidermal layer from basal layer, collagen degeneration with a focal area of necrosis, adjacent subdermal abscess and infiltration of neutrophils. Control of ticks should be given consideration to reduce the severity of hide damage and concomitant losses in the domestic leather industry. Ticks are known as a vector of numerous pathogens; efforts are underway to educate farmers about financial loss of skin and hide due to tick infestation and preventive control measures.
I realize that just finding something doesn’t mean it can be transmitted. This would be an excellent thing to study, but won’t be. Researchers are chasing the golden egg of “climate change,” so we may never completely know if a tick bite could transmit this, but it’s highly probable.
Signs and symptoms look exactly like other tick-borne illnesses. Treatment is often the combination of doxycycline and rifampin for a minimum of 6-8 weeks.