Ovine Brucellosis

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Also Known As: Ram EpididymitisOrchitisOvine Contagious EpididymitisBrucella ovis Epididymitis.

Caused By: Brucella ovis and Brucella melitensis


Ovine brucellosis causes reproductive disease in sheep, mainly in rams.

B. ovis is the least virulent of all the Brucella species.

The disease is on List B of the Office International des Epizooties (OIE) It is therefore notifiable to the OIE.


The disease is unique to sheep.


Present in all countries where sheep are intensively farmed. It is transmitted mainly through semen but shedding is unreliable.

Ewes can also act as indirect vectors for brucellosis if they mate with both an infected and uninfected ram during the same oestrus cycle.

Abortion materials and vaginal discharge also contain Brucella organisms

Brucellosis is not considered zoonotic.

Clinical Signs

Epididymitis in rams with swelling and enlargement of testes, scrotum, penis and prepuce. Decreased reproductive performance will be noticed due to impaired spermatogenesis.

Testicular atrophy occurs in chronic infections.

Occasionally also abortion in ewes and weak lambs. This only occurs due to placental necrosis in ewes exposed in the first two trimesters of pregnancy.


Palpation of the testes is suggestive but not definitive.

Specific immunofluorescent staining of semen smears is confirmatory.

Brucella organisms can also be isolated from the epididymis and accessory sex glands at necropsy, although excretion is intermittent so false negatives are not uncommon.

ELISA and Complement Fixation are also commonly used for serological diagnosis.


Antibiotic therapy is very expensive, prolonged and ineffective.


Testing and culling of breeding stock is essential to ensure carriers are not present within a flock.

Vaccination is available against both Brucella species, but B. ovis vaccines are only widely used in New Zealand. Any vaccination will interfere wih serological diagnosis and this should be considered.

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This article was originally sourced from The Animal Health & Production Compendium (AHPC) published online by CABI during the OVAL Project.

The datasheet was accessed on 6 June 2011.

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