Diseases : Glanders

Glanders is an infectious disease caused by the bacterium Burkholderia mallei. Glanders primarily affects horses, but it also affects donkeys, mules, goats, dogs, and cats.

Human infection occurs rarely and sporadically among laboratory workers and those in direct and prolonged contact with infected domestic animals. The bacteria enter the body through broken/abraded skin and through the eyes and nose.


The symptoms of glanders depend upon the site where the bacteria first enter the body. The types of infection include localized, lung, bloodstream and chronic. Generalized symptoms of glanders include fever, muscle aches, chest pain, muscle tightness, and headache. Additional symptoms can include excessive tearing of the eyes, light sensitivity, and diarrhea.

If there is a cut or scratch in the skin where the bacteria enter the body, a localized infection with ulceration will develop within one to five days at this site . Swollen lymph nodes may also be apparent. Infections involving the mucous membranes in the eyes, nose and respiratory tract will cause increased mucus production from the affected sites.

Infections of the lung can occur, and infections in the bloodstream are usually fatal within seven to 10 days. The chronic form of glanders involves multiple abscesses within the muscles of the arms and legs or in the spleen or liver.


Antibiotics will be provided by your physician for the treatment of glanders.

Further Information

Anyone with concerns or questions about glanders : please contact your physician or the staff of your local public health unit.


The information provided is subject to change. The information was collated from the following three sources :

1. Chin, J. "Control of Communicable Diseases Manual". 17th Edition. 2000. American Public Health Association: Washington D.C.
2. Health Canada website
3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website

*Advice on the most up-to-date treatment should be sought from a clinical expert.

January 2003

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