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SynonymsEquinia, farcy, malleus [1]
Specialty Infectious disease   Blue pencil.svg

Glanders is an infectious disease that occurs primarily in horses, mules, and donkeys. It can be contracted by other animals, such as dogs, cats, goats and humans. It is caused by infection with the bacterium Burkholderia mallei , usually by ingestion of contaminated feed or water. Signs of glanders include the formation of nodular lesions in the lungs and ulceration of the mucous membranes in the upper respiratory tract. The acute form results in coughing, fever, and the release of an infectious nasal discharge, followed by septicaemia and death within days. In the chronic form, nasal and subcutaneous nodules develop, eventually ulcerating. Death can occur within months, while survivors act as carriers.

Horse Domesticated four-footed mammal from the equine family

The horse is one of two extant subspecies of Equus ferus. It is an odd-toed ungulate mammal belonging to the taxonomic family Equidae. The horse has evolved over the past 45 to 55 million years from a small multi-toed creature, Eohippus, into the large, single-toed animal of today. Humans began domesticating horses around 4000 BC, and their domestication is believed to have been widespread by 3000 BC. Horses in the subspecies caballus are domesticated, although some domesticated populations live in the wild as feral horses. These feral populations are not true wild horses, as this term is used to describe horses that have never been domesticated, such as the endangered Przewalski's horse, a separate subspecies, and the only remaining true wild horse. There is an extensive, specialized vocabulary used to describe equine-related concepts, covering everything from anatomy to life stages, size, colors, markings, breeds, locomotion, and behavior.

Mule offspring of a male donkey (jack) and a female horse (mare)

A mule is the offspring of a male donkey (jack) and a female horse (mare). Horses and donkeys are different species, with different numbers of chromosomes. Of the two first generation hybrids between these two species, a mule is easier to obtain than a hinny, which is the offspring of a female donkey (jenny) and a male horse (stallion).

Donkey subspecies of mammal (donkey as a domesticated subspecies)

The donkey or ass is a domesticated member of the horse family, Equidae. The wild ancestor of the donkey is the African wild ass, E. africanus. The donkey has been used as a working animal for at least 5000 years. There are more than 40 million donkeys in the world, mostly in underdeveloped countries, where they are used principally as draught or pack animals. Working donkeys are often associated with those living at or below subsistence levels. Small numbers of donkeys are kept for breeding or as pets in developed countries.


Glanders is endemic in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and Central and South America. It has been eradicated from North America, Australia, and most of Europe through surveillance and destruction of affected animals, and import restrictions.

B. mallei is able to infect humans, so is classed as a zoonotic agent. Transmission occurs by direct contact with infected animals and entry is through skin abrasions, nasal and oral mucosal surfaces, or by inhalation.

Zoonosis infectious disease that is transmitted between species (sometimes by a vector) from animals other than humans to humans or from humans to other animals

Zoonoses are infectious diseases caused by bacteria, viruses and parasites that spread between animals and humans.

The mallein test is a sensitive and specific clinical test for glanders. Mallein (ATCvet code: QI05AR01 ( WHO )), a protein fraction of the glanders organism (B. mallei), is injected intradermopalpebrally or given by eye drop. In infected animals, the eyelid swells markedly in 1 to 2 days.

Mallein test

The mallein test is a sensitive and specific clinical test for glanders, a common bacterial disease of equids. This test is an allergic hypersensitivity test used as a diagnosis for glanders. It is caused by a bacterium called Burkholderia mallei, which is contagious for humans and other species. The occurrence of glanders must be reported to the World Organisation for Animal Health. Mallein, a protein fraction of B. mallei, is usually injected by an eye-drop. If an animal is infected, the animal will show swelling in the eye from around 48 hours of injection and may be accompanied by secretion and conjunctivitis. Mallein is non toxic to normal animals.

Glanders has not been reported in the United States since 1945, except in 2000, when an American lab researcher suffered from accidental exposure. [2] It is a notifiable disease in the UK, [3] although it has not been reported there since 1928. The term is from Middle English glaundres or Old French glandres, both meaning glands; [4] Latin : malleus, German : Rotz.

A notifiable disease is any disease that is required by law to be reported to government authorities. The collation of information allows the authorities to monitor the disease, and provides early warning of possible outbreaks. In the case of livestock diseases, there may also be the legal requirement to destroy the infected livestock upon notification. Many governments have enacted regulations for reporting of both human and animal diseases.

Middle English Stage of the English language from about the 12th through 15th centuries

Middle English was a form of the English language, spoken after the Norman conquest (1066) until the late 15th century. English underwent distinct variations and developments following the Old English period. Scholarly opinion varies, but the Oxford English Dictionary specifies the period when Middle English was spoken as being from 1150 to 1500. This stage of the development of the English language roughly followed the High to the Late Middle Ages.

Old French was the language spoken in Northern France from the 8th century to the 14th century. In the 14th century, these dialects came to be collectively known as the langue d'oïl, contrasting with the langue d'oc or Occitan language in the south of France. The mid-14th century is taken as the transitional period to Middle French, the language of the French Renaissance, specifically based on the dialect of the Île-de-France region.

Historical cases, contagion, and potential use in war

Due to the high mortality rate in humans and the small number of organisms required to establish infection, B. mallei is regarded as a potential biological warfare or bioterrorism agent, as is the closely related organism, B. pseudomallei, the causative agent of melioidosis. During World War I, glanders was believed to have been spread deliberately by German agents to infect large numbers of Russian horses and mules on the Eastern Front. [5] Other agents attempted to introduce the disease in the United States and Argentina. This had an effect on troop and supply convoys, as well as on artillery movement, which were dependent on horses and mules. Human cases in Russia increased with the infections during and after WWI. The Japanese deliberately infected horses, civilians, and prisoners of war with B. mallei at the Unit 731 Pingfang (China) Institute and Unit 100 facilities during World War II.

Biological warfare use of biological toxins or infectious agents with the intent to kill or otherwise neutralize enemies as an act of war

Biological warfare (BW)—also known as germ warfare—is the use of biological toxins or infectious agents such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi with the intent to kill or incapacitate humans, animals or plants as an act of war. Biological weapons are living organisms or replicating entities that reproduce or replicate within their host victims. Entomological (insect) warfare is also considered a type of biological weapon. This type of warfare is distinct from nuclear warfare and chemical warfare, which together with biological warfare make up NBC, the military initialism for nuclear, biological, and chemical warfare using weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). None of these are considered conventional weapons, which are deployed primarily for their explosive, kinetic, or incendiary potential.

Bioterrorism terrorism involving the intentional release or dissemination of biological agents

Bioterrorism is terrorism involving the intentional release or dissemination of biological agents. These agents are bacteria, viruses, fungi, or toxins, and may be in a naturally occurring or a human-modified form, in much the same way in biological warfare.

Melioidosis Human disease

Melioidosis is an infectious disease caused by a Gram-negative bacterium, Burkholderia pseudomallei, found in soil and water. It is of public health importance in endemic areas, particularly in northeast Thailand, Vietnam, and northern Australia. It exists in acute and chronic forms. Signs and symptoms may include pain in chest, bones, or joints; cough; skin infections, lung nodules, and pneumonia.

The U.S. studied this agent as a possible biological weapon in 1943–44, but did not weaponize it. U.S. interest in glanders (agent LA) continued through the 1950s, except it had an inexplicable tendency to lose virulence in the lab, making it difficult to weaponize. Between 1982 and 1984, the Soviet Union allegedly used weaponized B. mallei during the Soviet–Afghan War. [6]

Soviet Union 1922–1991 country in Europe and Asia

The Soviet Union, officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), was a socialist state in Eurasia that existed from 1922 to 1991. Nominally a union of multiple national Soviet republics, its government and economy were highly centralized. The country was a one-party state, governed by the Communist Party with Moscow as its capital in its largest republic, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. Other major urban centres were Leningrad, Kiev, Minsk, Alma-Ata, and Novosibirsk. It spanned over 10,000 kilometres east to west across 11 time zones, and over 7,200 kilometres north to south. It had five climate zones: tundra, taiga, steppes, desert and mountains.

Soviet–Afghan War War between the Soviet Union and Afghan insurgents, 1979-89

The Soviet–Afghan War lasted over nine years, from December 1979 to February 1989. Insurgent groups known collectively as the mujahideen, as well as smaller Maoist groups, fought a guerrilla war against the Soviet Army and the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan government, mostly in the rural countryside. The mujahideen groups were backed primarily by the United States, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan, making it a Cold War proxy war. Between 562,000 and 2,000,000 civilians were killed and millions of Afghans fled the country as refugees, mostly to Pakistan and Iran.

Before the Battle of Blenheim in 1704, glanders may have afflicted and greatly diminished the horses of Marshal Tallard's cavalry, helping the Duke of Marlborough win the battle.

Historian Lise Wilkinson has described the incredible difficulty of studying outbreaks of glanders in history. [7] Glanders was a significant problem for civilian use of horses, as well. In the eighteenth-century veterinary hospital at the École Nationale Vétérinaire d'Alfort, glanders was the most common disease among their equine patients and the one most likely to cause death. [8]

Vaccine research

No vaccine is licensed for use in the U.S. [9] Infection with either of these bacteria results in nonspecific symptoms and can be either acute or chronic, impeding rapid diagnosis. The lack of a vaccine for either bacterium also makes them potential candidates for bioweaponization.[ citation needed ] [10] Together, with their high rate of infectivity by aerosols and resistance to many common antibiotics, both bacteria have been classified as category B priority pathogens by the US NIH and US CDC, which has spurred a dramatic increase in interest in these microorganisms. Attempts have been made to develop vaccines for these infections, which would not only benefit military personnel, a group most likely to be targeted in an intentional release, but also individuals who may come in contact with glanders-infected animals or live in areas where melioidosis is endemic.

Related Research Articles

Plague (disease) contagious and frequently fatal human disease

Plague is an infectious disease caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis. Symptoms include fever, weakness and headache. Usually this begins one to seven days after exposure. In the bubonic form there is also swelling of lymph nodes, while in the septicemic form tissues may turn black and die, and in the pneumonic form shortness of breath, cough and chest pain may occur.

Q fever disease caused by infection with Coxiella burnetii, a bacterium that affects humans and other animals; the most common manifestation is flu-like symptoms; the name Q stands for “query”, so named when the pathogen was unknown

Q fever is a disease caused by infection with Coxiella burnetii, a bacterium that affects humans and other animals. This organism is uncommon, but may be found in cattle, sheep, goats, and other domestic mammals, including cats and dogs. The infection results from inhalation of a spore-like small-cell variant, and from contact with the milk, urine, feces, vaginal mucus, or semen of infected animals. Rarely, the disease is tick-borne. The incubation period is 9–40 days. Humans are vulnerable to Q fever, and infection can result from even a few organisms. The bacterium is an obligate intracellular pathogenic parasite.

Tularemia primary bacterial infectious disease that has material basis in Francisella tularensis, which is transmitted by dog tick bite (Dermacentor variabilis), transmitted by deer flies (Chrysops sp) or transmitted by contact with infected animal tissues.

Tularemia, also known as rabbit fever, is an infectious disease caused by the bacterium Francisella tularensis. Symptoms may include fever, skin ulcers, and enlarged lymph nodes. Occasionally, a form that results in pneumonia or a throat infection may occur.

<i>Burkholderia</i> genus of bacteria

Burkholderia is a genus of Proteobacteria whose pathogenic members include the Burkholderia cepacia complex which attacks humans and Burkholderia mallei, responsible for glanders, a disease that occurs mostly in horses and related animals; Burkholderia pseudomallei, causative agent of melioidosis; and Burkholderia cepacia, an important pathogen of pulmonary infections in people with cystic fibrosis (CF).

Covering sickness horses disease

Covering sickness, or dourine, is a disease of horses and other members of the family Equidae. The disease is caused by Trypanosoma equiperdum, which belongs to an important genus of parasitic protozoa, and is the only member of the genus that is spread through sexual intercourse. The occurrence of dourine is notifiable in the European Union under legislation from the OIE. There currently is no vaccine and although clinical signs can be treated, there is no cure.

<i>Burkholderia pseudomallei</i> species of bacterium

Burkholderia pseudomallei is a Gram-negative, bipolar, aerobic, motile rod-shaped bacterium. It is a soil-dwelling bacterium endemic in tropical and subtropical regions worldwide, particularly in Thailand and northern Australia. It infects humans and animals and causes the disease melioidosis. It is also capable of infecting plants.

<i>Burkholderia mallei</i> species of bacterium

Burkholderia mallei is a Gram-negative, bipolar, aerobic bacterium, a human and animal pathogen of genus Burkholderia causing glanders; the Latin name of this disease (malleus) gave its name to the species causing it. It is closely related to B. pseudomallei, and by multilocus sequence typing it is a subspecies of B. pseudomallei.B. mallei evolved from B. pseudomallei by selective reduction and deletions from the B. pseudomallei genome. Unlike B. pseudomallei and other genus members, B. mallei is nonmotile; its shape is coccobacillary measuring some 1.5–3.0 μm in length and 0.5–1.0 μm in diameter with rounded ends.

Under United States law, "Biological Select Agents or Toxins" (BSATs) — or simply select agents for short — are bio-agents which since 1997 have been declared by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) or by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to have the "potential to pose a severe threat to public health and safety". The agents are divided into (1) HHS select agents and toxins affecting humans; (2) USDA select agents and toxins affecting agriculture; and (3) overlap select agents and toxins affecting both.

An emerging infectious disease (EID) is an infectious disease whose incidence has increased in the past 20 years and could increase in the near future. Emerging infections account for at least 12% of all human pathogens. EIDs are caused by newly identified species or strains that may have evolved from a known infection or spread to a new population or to an area undergoing ecologic transformation, or be reemerging infections, like drug resistant tuberculosis. Nosocomial (hospital-acquired) infections, such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus are emerging in hospitals, and extremely problematic in that they are resistant to many antibiotics. Of growing concern are adverse synergistic interactions between emerging diseases and other infectious and non-infectious conditions leading to the development of novel syndemics. Many emerging diseases are zoonotic - an animal reservoir incubates the organism, with only occasional transmission into human populations.

African horse sickness (AHS) is a highly infectious and deadly disease caused by African horse sickness virus. It commonly affects horses, mules, and donkeys. It is caused by a virus of the genus Orbivirus belonging to the family Reoviridae. This disease can be caused by any of the nine serotypes of this virus. AHS is not directly contagious, but is known to be spread by insect vectors.

<i>Babesia</i> genus of protozoan parasites

Babesia, also called Nuttallia, is an Apicomplexan parasite that infects red blood cells, transmitted by ticks. Originally discovered by the Romanian bacteriologist Victor Babeș, over 100 species of Babesia have since been identified.

<i>Western equine encephalitis virus</i> species of virus

The Western equine encephalomyelitis virus is the causative agent of relatively uncommon viral disease Western equine encephalomyelitis (WEE). An Alphavirus of the family Togaviridae, the WEE virus is an arbovirus transmitted by mosquitoes of the genera Culex and Culiseta. WEE is a recombinant virus between two other alphaviruses, an ancestral Sindbis virus-like virus, and an ancestral Eastern equine encephalitis virus-like virus. There have been under 700 confirmed cases in the U.S. since 1964. This virus contains an envelope that is made up of glycoproteins and nucleic acids. The virus is transmitted to people and horses by bites from infected mosquitoes and birds during wet, summer months.

Equine viral arteritis (EVA) is a disease of horses caused by Alphaarterivirus equid, an RNA virus. It is the only species in the genus Alphaarterivirus, and that is the only genus in the Equarterivirinae subfamily. The virus which causes EVA was first isolated in 1953, but the disease has afflicted equine animals worldwide for centuries. It has been more common in some breeds of horses in the United States, but there is no breed "immunity". In the UK, it is a notifiable disease. There is no known human hazard.

Epizootic lymphangitis is a contagious lymphangitis disease of horses and mules caused by the fungus Histoplasma farciminosum. Cattle are also susceptible, but more resistant to the disease than equids.

A Foreign animal disease (FAD) is an animal disease or pest, whether terrestrial or aquatic, not known to exist in the United States or its territories. When these diseases can significantly affect human health or animal production and when there is significant economic cost for disease control and eradication efforts, they are considered a threat to the United States. Another term gaining preference to be used is Transboundary Animal Disease (TAD), which is defined as those epidemic diseases which are highly contagious or transmissible and have the potential for very rapid spread, irrespective of national borders, causing serious socio-economic and possibly public health consequences. An Emerging Animal Disease "may be defined as any terrestrial animal, aquatic animal, or zoonotic disease not yet known or characterized, or any known or characterized terrestrial animal or aquatic animal disease in the United States or its territories that changes or mutates in pathogenicity, communicability, or zoonotic potential to become a threat to terrestrial animals, aquatic animals, or humans."


  1. James, William D.; Berger, Timothy G.; et al. (2006). Andrews' Diseases of the Skin: clinical Dermatology. Saunders Elsevier. ISBN   978-0-7216-2921-6.
  2. "Glanders: Information for Health Care Workers". Retrieved 8 April 2016.
  3. Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs and Animal and Plant Health Agency. "Notifiable diseases in animals". United Kingdom Government. Retrieved 8 April 2016.
  4. "glanders". American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition. 2000. Archived from the original on 2008-01-31. Retrieved 2007-05-13.
  5. Woods, Lt. Col. Jon B. (ed.) (April 2005). USAMRIID's Medical Management of Biological Casualties Handbook (PDF) (6th ed.). U.S. Army Medical Institute of Infectious Diseases, Fort Detrick, Maryland. p. 67. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-06-09.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link).
  6. Van Zandt, Kristopher E.; Greer, Marek T.; Gelhaus, H. Carl (September 3, 2013). "Glanders: an overview of infection in humans". Orphanet Journal of Rare Diseases. 8: 131. doi:10.1186/1750-1172-8-131. PMC   3766238 . PMID   24004906.
  7. Wilkinson, Lise (1981). "Glanders: Medicine and Veterinary Medicine in Common Pursuit of a Contagious Disease" (PDF). Medical History. 25 (4): 363–384. doi:10.1017/S0025727300034876.
  8. Heintzman, Kit (2018). "A cabinet of the ordinary: domesticating veterinary education, 1766–1799". The British Journal for the History of Science. 51 (2): 239–260. doi:10.1017/S0007087418000274. PMID   29665887.
  9. "Glanders: Prevention". Retrieved 6 April 2016.
  10. Dance, David Allan Brett (2009). "Melioidosis and Glanders as Possible Biological Weapons". Bioterrorism and Infectious Agents: A New Dilemma for the 21st Century. pp. 99–145. doi:10.1007/978-1-4419-1266-4_4. ISBN   978-1-4419-1265-7.
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