Bovine tuberculosis -caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium bovis- It is a chronic infectious disease that affects cows, oxen and bulls, among other species. And, contrary to what it seems from its name, humans are not exempt from contagion.
Although the main foci of the condition are in Africa and certain parts of Asia, it is also found in Europe and America. And in this sense, according to the 2022 data published in the veterinary journal Animals Health, Spain is among the 3 most affected European countries by zoonotic tuberculosis in people, second only to Sweden and Ireland.
now a recent easing of livestock controls in Castilla y León -autonomous community that concentrates a large part of the bovine census (21.7%) in Spain- makes both farmers and consumers resume their concern about this disease.
How is bovine tuberculosis transmitted and diagnosed in animals?
Between animals, contagion can occur by droplet inhalation infected that a sick animal expels when coughing, or also indirectly, through the feed intake contaminated.
The disease evolves slowly in the organism of the animals, who can be infected for months and even years until they die. This makes a single animal can spread the bacteria throughout the herd before manifesting the symptomsWhat are they:
- intermittent cough
- Loss of appetite and weight
- large lymph nodes
As in the tests for humans, the way to diagnose the disease in presumed infected animals is the tuberculin test: a subcutaneous method that consists of injecting the bacteria and, 72 hours later, measuring the thickness of the skin to detect inflammation. However, the method is not 100% effective, and therefore the disease must be definitively ruled out. through a cropwhich can take up to 8 weeks.
Is bovine tuberculosis dangerous to humans?
Early diagnosis in infected animals is essential to prevent products from bovine derivatives -such as meat, milk or cheese- enter the food chain contaminated.
Until now it is not possible to clinically distinguish the Mycobacterium tuberculosis from M. bovisbut it is estimated that in some countries the second causes the 10% of tuberculosis cases in humans. In line with this, a document from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States shows that it is very unlikely to get bovine tuberculosis, but if it does happen, it can cause a severe picture of fever, night sweats and weight loss.
To prevent the disease, experts recommend always consuming pasteurized dairy products and subjecting the meat to elevated temperatures. The bacterium is heat sensitiveTherefore, making sure that the food has been properly cooked is essential to reduce the chances of contagion.
In the case of presenting symptoms or having been in direct contact with infected specimens, the patient should seek medical attention immediately.