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Brucellosis associated with kidney injury and any form of nephropathy – a review of the literature

Anthony Kodzo-Grey Venyo
Published in : HAMDAN MEDICAL JOURNAL ; Vol 9, No 3 (2016)
DOI : 10.7707/hmj.447


Systemic brucellosis may be associated with acute kidney injury (AKI), haemolytic–uraemic syndrome, nephrotic syndrome or various types of nephropathy. Presentation depends on the type of renal disease the patient develops. A diagnosis of brucellosis as a cause of nephropathy would require the following: isolation of Brucella in blood culture; positive serological test for brucellosis; renal biopsy evidence of the type of nephropathy; culture of Brucella from perinephric abscess or renal abscess aspirate; culture of Brucella from nephrectomy specimen; and finding a specific type of nephropathy during histological examination. Ultrasonographic and computerized tomographic findings are not specific for brucellosis; however, the scans may show an abnormal area in the kidney from which renal biopsies can be taken for pathological examination and culturing, and if there is an abscess it can be aspirated for culture. A high index of suspicion is required to diagnose the disease. The most commonly used antibiotic regimen for the treatment for brucellosis is doxycycline 100mg twice a day for 45 days in combination with streptomycin 1g/day for 15 days. The main alternative treatment is doxycycline 100mg twice a day for 45 days in combination with rifampicin 15mg/kg/day (600–900mg) for 45 days. Experience suggests that streptomycin may be replaced by gentamicin 5mg/kg/day for 7–10 days. The optimal treatment for neonates and children under 8 years old with acute brucellosis has not yet been determined but there is some experience with trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole (cotrimoxazole) in combination with an aminoglycoside (streptomycin, gentamicin) or rifampicin. In general, other combinations of antibiotics have also been used to treat brucellosis. In cases of kidney injury and dehydration, in addition to antibiotic treatment, rehydration and clinical monitoring is required, as is monitoring urine output, repeated urinalysis and repeated serum biochemical tests for renal function estimation to assess the patient’s progress. Most renal complications due to brucellosis resolve/improve after combined antibiotic treatment and rehydration, which is also most often associated with return of normal renal function or improvement in renal function. However, relapses can occur, and careful patient follow-up is required to further assess the patient clinically by regularly repeating urinalysis, renal function tests, liver function tests and full blood count and coagulation tests, as well as repeating blood and urine cultures and Brucella serology tests. Patients should be educated to avoid contact with and ingestion of unpasteurized dairy products. Pasteurization of all dairy products should be advised, encouraged and monitored. Veterinary surgeons in endemic areas should be informed and assist when a new diagnosis is made in order to help identify and treat or kill affected animals harbouring Brucella.


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