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Free Content Bovine tuberculosis: an old disease but a new threat to Africa

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Bovine tuberculosis (TB) is a disease characterised by progressive development of specific granulomatous le-sions or tubercles in lung tissue, lymph nodes or other organs. Mycobacterium bovis is the causative agent of the disease. Bovine species, including bison and buffaloes, are susceptible to the disease, but nearly all warm-blooded animals can be affected. All species are not equally susceptible to the disease; some are spill-over (end) hosts and others maintenance hosts. In Africa, bovine TB primarily affects cattle; however, infection in other farm and domestic animals, such as sheep, goats, pigs, dogs and cats, is not uncommon. Wild ruminants and carnivores are also affected and are the natural reservoirs of the infectious agent in the wild. Man is also susceptible to the disease, the highest risk groups being individuals with concomitant HIV/AIDS infection. In Africa, human TB is widely known to be caused by M. tuberculosis; however, an unknown proportion of cases are due to M. bovis. This infection in humans is underreported as a result of the diagnostic limitations of many laboratories in distinguishing M. bovis from M. tuberculosis. None of the national reports submitted to the OIE and WHO by African member states mention the importance of M. bovis in human TB cases. Consumption of unpasteurised milk and poorly heat-treated meat and close contact with infected animals represent the main sources of infection for humans. This review attempts to examine the impact of bovine TB on the health of animals and humans.
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Keywords: bovine tuberculosis; cattle; milk; pasteurisation; wild animals; zoonosis

Document Type: Review Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Food and Feed Safety, Veterinary Research Institute, Brno, Czech Republic 2: Agriculture, Food and Environmental Science, Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Belfast, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom 3: Department of Public Health and Epidemiology, Swiss Tropical Institute, Basel, Switzerland

Publication date: August 1, 2004

More about this publication?
  • The International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease publishes articles on all aspects of lung health, including public health-related issues such as training programmes, cost-benefit analysis, legislation, epidemiology, intervention studies and health systems research. The IJTLD is dedicated to the continuing education of physicians and health personnel and the dissemination of information on lung health world-wide.

    To share scientific research of immediate concern as rapidly as possible, The Union is fast-tracking the publication of certain articles from the IJTLD and publishing them on The Union website, prior to their publication in the Journal. Read fast-track articles.

    Certain IJTLD articles are also selected for translation into French, Spanish, Chinese or Russian. These are available on the Union website.

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