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Serosurvey and Risk Factors Associated with Brucella Infection in High Risk Occupations from District Lahore and Kasur of Punjab, Pakistan

Brucellosis is a neglected zoonotic disease, and occupations with a high risk of infection exist. Limited information is available on brucellosis for these employees at high risk in Pakistan. A total of 459 persons with high-risk occupations, i.e., 211 abattoir workers, 63 milkers, 52 dung cake makers, 44 veterinarians, 44 shepherds, and 45 veterinary students of the districts Kasur and Lahore, Pakistan, were tested in this study. Blood samples and information on place of residence, gender, age, urbanicity, type of occupation, socioeconomic status, contact with animals, consumption of raw milk, contact to women who had a miscarriage, contact to aborted animal fetus or abortion material, pregnancy, miscarriage history, or intrauterine fetal death were collected. Serum samples were examined using Rose Bengal tests for anti-Brucella antibodies and seropositive samples were subjected to genus-specific qPCR for the detection of DNA. Data were analyzed using chi-squared and binary regression. Twenty (4.35%) persons were seropositive for anti-Brucella antibodies. Out of these, 18 (90%) were tested positive by Brucella genus-specific qPCR. Positive sera were more often found in Lahore district (8.3%) than in Kasur district (3.1%). Persons older than 36 years were more often seropositive. Persons involved in the handing of milk and in contact with animals were more often seropositive. Contact with women who had had a miscarriage was also a significant factor for seropositivity for brucellosis. Place of residence, gender, age, urbanicity, and contact with animals were identified as potential risk factors in the present study. The present study confirmed that brucellosis is an occupation hazard for abattoir workers, milkers, dung cake makers, and veterinarians in the districts of Lahore and Kasur of Punjab, Pakistan. The study shows the need for strategies for safety at work to minimize the risk of infection. Raising awareness for the prevention and use of proper personal protection equipment during the slaughtering and treatment of animal is highly needed.

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