What is Glanders? 

Glanders is an infectious disease that is caused by the bacterium Burkholderia mallei. Glanders is spread through direct physical contact in horses affected with nasal or pulmonary forms of the disease. Glanders is not endemic in the United States and importation from endemic countries is regulated by quarantine and testing.

Clinical Signs: Glanders can present in several forms, nasal, pulmonary and cutaneous, depending on the location of the primary area of infection. The course of the disease may be acute or chronic.

Nasal Form

  • Begins with high fever, poor appetite, difficult breathing and coughing 
  • A highly infectious, thick, yellowish-green nasal discharge 
  • Thick crusty eye discharge 
  • Swellings in the nose, pharynx or trachea may produce visible ulceration and form scars 
  • Regional lymph nodes are enlarged

Pulmonary Form 

  • Usually requires several months to develop; first manifests itself through fever, difficulty breathing, severe coughing episodes, or a persistent dry cough 
  • Diarrhea and increased urination may also occur; all leading to a progressive loss of condition

Cutaneous Form (Farcy) 

  • Develops slowly over an extended period. 
  • Initially coughing, difficulty breathing, fever, and enlarged and inflamed lymph nodes leading to weight loss and debilitation. 
  • Nodules develop under the skin along lymphatics of the face, legs, ribs or ventral abdomen. Nodules may rupture and ulcerate resulting in skin inflammation.

Diagnosis: All manipulations with potentially infectious material must be performed in a laboratory that meets the requirements for Containment Group 3 pathogens. USDA regional office or a state animal health official should be contacted immediately if a case of Glanders is suspected.

There is no cure for Glanders. Antibiotic therapy does not appear to be effective in horses.

Prevention: There is no vaccine available for Glanders. Critical to effective prevention and control of glanders is prompt identification, euthanasia and appropriate disposal of all positive cases of the disease. Burkholderia mallei is killed by direct sunlight, desiccation and common disinfectants. Affected premises shall be quarantined and movement controls strictly enforced.