About Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis is an infectious disease, usually respiratory, that can affect both animals and human, so it is considered a zoonotic disease.

What causes the disease?

The microorganisms responsible for tuberculosis are mycobacteria, specifically those that are part of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex, a group of bacteria that mainly affect the organs of the respiratory system, mostly the lungs and lung lymph nodes.
In the case of human, tuberculosis is a leading cause of disease and mortality in the world, usually the bacterium that causes the disease is Mycobacterium tuberculosis.
In livestock, tuberculosis mainly affects cows, goats and other wild animals such as boars, deer, roe deer and fallow deer. However, in other countries the main species of wild animals affected may be different (Oystercatcher in New Zealand or Badger in the United Kingdom). In animals, tuberculosis is usually caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium bovis and Mycobacterium caprae, species that also have the widest range of hosts, including humans.

How is it transmitted?

Infected animals eliminate mycobacteria mainly through respiratory secretions or feces. Contagion occurs when an animal inhales such mycobacteria either by eating or drinking in a contaminated area.

Zoonotic tuberculosis

There is a risk of transmitting animal TB to people. In countries where there is a control program, zoonotic tuberculosis is uncommon and can occur when inhaling mycobacteria eliminated by infected animals or from injuries to infected animals. It can also be transmitted indirectly, through the consumption of contaminated milk or dairy products. In regions where food hygiene is applied consistently, the risk to the general public has been reduced. However, zoonotic tuberculosis infection remains a professional risk for ranchers, slaughterhouse workers, butchers and veterinarians.

What is the wildlife role? 

Some wild animals present in the trans-Pyrenean region, such as wild boar and deer, can be reservoirs of this disease and transmit it to livestock in the area. In addition, in recent years, the presence of the infection has been described in other animals also present in the region such as badgers and rodents. In domestic animals, tuberculosis causes great economic losses mainly due to the restrictions associated with disease control and therefore remains a concern for European authorities.  Given this problem, the INNOTUB project wants to study and improve the management of disease control in the trans-Pyrenees area where there is more risk of contact between domestic and wildlife. 

Source: Bernat Pérez de Val and Ana Balseiro. Pequeños rumiantes y tuberculosis en España. Albéitar, núm. 228, septiembre 2019, p. 26-29. 
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