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Times of India
25 November 2011
Chennai India

The rare bacteria had created holes in three of his heart valves, and given him a cardiac shock three weeks back. The brucellosis bacteria had eaten into his vitals, leading to bouts of severe breathlessness. But, after a six-hour emergency valve replacement surgery, doctors at SRM hospital were able to revive 45-yearold Vellakannu.

“The man had suffered a cardiac shock. He came in a moribund condition. We decided to operate immediately. We replaced his aortic valve and repaired the other two valves in 6 hours,“ said the cardio thoracic surgeon Dr Harshavardhan, who operated on him.

Six years ago, Vellakannu, hailing from Kallakurichi, took a flight to what he thought was his dream job — in Saudi Arabia. He wanted to help his family repay a few debts and fund his children's college education. Nine months ago, he was forced to return to his village with a moderate bank balance and a serious physical illness, and was diagnosed with brucellosis just a month ago in ahospital in Pondicherry.

Vellakannu suddenly developed severe breathlessness on November 4 and was rushed to the SRM hospital in Kattankulathur. Blood had stopped flowing from the heart to the rest of the body as the bacteria had created holes in his tricuspid, mitral and aortic valves.

Vellakannu's trauma began nearly a year ago, when a simple fever refused to go away. He was also unable to retain food in his stomach. “I was given the normal medicines. Anything I ate, I would throw up an hour later. I became weak as I was having just liquids, milk and water,“ said Vellakannu.

He was working as a farm labourer in a field in Riyadh, transporting vegetables and feeding cattle. “He says he used to drink milk without boiling it. So we suspect that the bacteria could have been transmitted from the animal through the milk“ said the cardio-thoracic surgeon Dr K Harshavardhan.

It was only last month that a Pondicherry hospital zeroed in on brucellosis. The bacteria can eat away any part of the body such as bones, muscles or organ. The patient is now on his way to recovery. Doctors say that continued administration of antibiotics over a period of nine months had successfully managed to kill the bacteria.

Rare malady what is brucellosis?

Brucellosis is spread through various brucella bacteria, which mainly affects cattle, sheep and dogs. Humans acquire the disease through direct contact with infected animals, by eating or drinking contaminated animal products, or by inhaling airborne agents. The bacteria can eat away any part of your body — brain, bones, muscles or heart

How does the infection spread?

Through animals that contract the bacteria when they eat the dead foetus of cats, goats and other cattle. The majority of cases are caused by unpasteurized milk or cheese from infected goat or sheep. The infection usually does not spread through contact with people


Flu-like symptoms such as high fever, general weakness, body pain, weight-loss and loss of appetite

Treatment? Antibiotics

rifampicin and doxycytilin — will kill the bacteria Presence of Brucellosis in India? There are no clear records of people being affected by brucellosis in the last two decades

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