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PLoS Negl Trop Dis. 2012;6(10):e1865. doi: 10.1371/journal.pntd.0001865. Epub 2012 Oct 25.

Global burden of human brucellosis: a systematic review of disease frequency.

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Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, Basel, Switzerland.



This report presents a systematic review of scientific literature published between 1990-2010 relating to the frequency of human brucellosis, commissioned by WHO. The objectives were to identify high quality disease incidence data to complement existing knowledge of the global disease burden and, ultimately, to contribute towards the calculation of a Disability-Adjusted Life Years (DALY) estimate for brucellosis.


Thirty three databases were searched, identifying 2,385 articles relating to human brucellosis. Based on strict screening criteria, 60 studies were selected for quality assessment, of which only 29 were of sufficient quality for data analysis. Data were only available from 15 countries in the regions of Northern Africa and Middle East, Western Europe, Central and South America, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Central Asia. Half of the studies presented incidence data, six of which were longitudinal prospective studies, and half presented seroprevalence data which were converted to incidence rates. Brucellosis incidence varied widely between, and within, countries. Although study biases cannot be ruled out, demographic, occupational, and socioeconomic factors likely play a role. Aggregated data at national or regional levels do not capture these complexities of disease dynamics and, consequently, at-risk populations or areas may be overlooked. In many brucellosis-endemic countries, health systems are weak and passively-acquired official data underestimate the true disease burden.


High quality research is essential for an accurate assessment of disease burden, particularly in Eastern Europe, the Asia-Pacific, Central and South America and Africa where data are lacking. Providing formal epidemiological and statistical training to researchers is essential for improving study quality. An integrated approach to disease surveillance involving both human health and veterinary services would allow a better understanding of disease dynamics at the animal-human interface, as well as a more cost-effective utilisation of resources.

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