Bovine Tuberculosis

These photos taken in 1929 compare healthy
bovine udder (L) and TB cow’s udder (R) to
recognise Bovine TB and how it contributes to
bacterial contamination of raw, unpasteurised milk 
This section provides information on one of the nine zoonotic diseases which have been identified by a experts in a national consultation organised by RCZI in June, 2008  as focus or priority diseases for the next five years.

Bovine Tuberculosis is a chronic bacterial disease of cattle that occasionally affects other species of mammals. It can spread to humans by inhalation of aerosols or ingestion of unpasteurised milk. It is a contagious chronic disease of cattle caused by Mycobacterium bovis and associated with progressive emaciation and tubercle (granuloma) formation involving usually the respiratory system but also other organs.

Bovine TB is widespread throughout the world. In developed countries, eradication programmes have reduced or eliminated tuberculosis in cattle, and human disease is now rare though reservoirs in wildlife can make complete eradication a daunting task. Bovine TB is subject to control programmes in a number of countries. In the absence of control measures it tends to be more common in colder climates, because housing animals leads to its spread. It is common in less developed countries and severe economic losses result from livestock deaths, chronic disease and trade restrictions. In can prove to be a serious threat to endangered species.

In humans, the incidence is higher in farmers, abattoir workers and others who work with cattle. In addition, humans can be infected by exposure to other species; documented infections have occurred from goats, seals, farmed elk and a rhinoceros. Wildlife may be a source of infection, particularly in countries where bushmeat is eaten.

Global Situation

Recent Publications and Reviews

  • Comparative prevalence of tuberculosis in two dairy herds in India:  Rev. sci. tech. Off. int. Epiz., 2006, 25 (3), 1125-1130
  • Isolation of Mycobacterium bovis & M. tuberculosis from cattle of some farms in north India - Possible relevance in human health: Indian J Med Res 128, July 2008, pp 26-31
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Confirmed and Suspected Outbreaks of Bovine Tuberculosis