Bovine tuberculosis (bTB) is a chronic bacterial disease affecting cattle and other mammals, which is reportable to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).
Some countries are free of the disease, whereas it is endemic in others. Find out where the latest reported outbreaks are with this map.
bTB is a major infectious disease of cattle, which also affects other domesticated animals and wildlife. It is caused by Mycobacterium bovis which is part of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex (MTC). Although much less common in people than tuberculosis caused by M. tuberculosis, bTB is zoonotic so people can get infected with M. bovis from animals.
Farm animals, wildlife populations, as well as humans can be infected with the M.bovis bacteria. Transmission occurs through respiration or by ingestion, although it can take months for clinical signs to appear because the generation time of these bacteria is slow (up to 20 hours). Pasteurisation/heat treatment of milk is effective in preventing the spread of the bacteria through drinking milk.
Currently the lack of effective vaccines that do not interfere with bTB testing means that vaccination is not standard control measure for bTB. However, research continues into vaccines for bTB.
Due to the slow development of this disease, infected animals may not show clinical signs until the later stages. The clinical signs are non-specific and may include lethargy, weakness, reduced appetite, recurrent light fever, swollen lymph nodes, cough, and/or chronic mastitis. This means that infected animals may not be easily identified.
There is no effective treatment currently.
Control of bTB generally involves identifying infected animals and removing them from the herd (test and slaughter/segregation). Movement controls, post mortem meat inspection, and legislation are also important factors. Skin testing using the single intradermal tuberculin test (which detects a delayed-type hypersensitivity reaction to the intradermal injection of tuberculin) has been used for many years around the world. Whilst there are various versions of the test used for routine screening of cattle for bTB the basic principle is the same.