Doctors usually confirm a diagnosis of brucellosis by testing a sample of blood or bone marrow for the brucella bacteria or by testing blood for antibodies to the bacteria. To help detect complications of brucellosis, you may have additional tests, including:
- X-rays. X-rays can reveal changes in your bones and joints.
- Computerized tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). These imaging tests help identify inflammation or abscesses in the brain or other tissues.
- Cerebrospinal fluid culture. This checks a small sample of the fluid that surrounds your brain and spinal cord for infections such as meningitis and encephalitis.
- Echocardiography. This test uses sound waves to create images of your heart to check for signs of infection or damage to your heart.
Treatment for brucellosis aims to relieve symptoms, prevent a relapse of the disease and avoid complications. You'll need to take antibiotics for at least six weeks, and your symptoms may not go away completely for several months. The disease can also return and may become chronic.
Preparing for your appointment
If you suspect that you have brucellosis, you're likely to start by seeing your family doctor or a general practitioner. You may be referred to an infectious disease specialist.
A diagnosis of brucellosis depends on understanding if, how and when you were exposed to the bacteria that cause the disease. You can help your doctor by being prepared with as much information as possible.
What you can do
Before your appointment, you may want to write a list of answers to the following questions:
- When did you first begin experiencing symptoms?
- Have you eaten raw (unpasteurized) dairy products, such as goat cheese?
- Does your job involve contact with animals or with animal tissues?
- Have you traveled outside the United States during the past year?
- Do you work in a lab where infectious organisms are present?
- Have you gone hunting recently?
What to expect from your doctor
During the physical exam, your doctor may:
- Ask you to move your joints, to check for pain and stiffness
- Check your reflexes and the strength of your muscles
- Press on your abdomen to determine if organs are enlarged or tender