Only a handful of livestock diseases are guaranteed to raise the eyebrows of producers and laymen whenever mentioned. Among them is bovine tuberculosis (TB), which, according to the World Health Organization, is a “major disease and cause of concern.” Both health and animal experts are striving to educate the public and create awareness about this disease in domestic cattle and wild ruminant populations.
In answer to help combat this disease, researchers at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center are at work to modify and improve a simple, inexpensive test that can quickly and efficiently detect if a person or animal is infected with TB. Researchers believe these new diagnostic tests will enable faster TB detection at a reduced cost, which could significantly help prevention of transmission of bovine TB in humans and animals.
“Effective surveillance and diagnosis of bovine-TB is crucial for prevention and eradication of this disease,” said Dr. Shu-Hua Wang, an infectious disease physician with the Wexner Medical Center. “The ability of this test to provide early detection will fill a significant need in this area and have an important impact on public health, economy, agriculture, and quality of life.”
The test functions very similarly as a commercial pregnancy test, with results in only 25 minutes. The estimated cost would be only about $3.50 per test.
The test detects the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex, which includes the human pathogen Mycobacterium tuberculosis and the bovine one, Mycobacterium bovis. Mycobacterium bovis is zoonotic and can be transmitted to humans via aerosolization (breathing infected mycobacteria), or ingestion of unpasteurized, raw milk and dairy products and undercooked meat from infected animals.
“We know that transmission can occur from human to animal and animal to human,” explained Dr. Wang. “We must improve diagnosis of zoonotic TB if we want to eliminate global TB disease. Our goal is to improve human and animal health.”
Wang explained some cattle herds in Michigan have been identified with bovine TB. Local wildlife populations (namely deer) are likely contributing to the reservoir. Interestingly, there are documented cases of bovine TB in deer hunters and taxidermists in the area from direct contact with infected deer.
“We need to educate the deer hunters, the farmers, dairy workers who may come into contact with infected cattle or deer,” she said. “We need to screen those that are exposed for TB infection and TB disease.”
Jaclyn Krymowski is a graduate of The Ohio State University with a major in animal industries and minor in agriculture communications. She is an enthusiastic agvocate, professional freelance writer, and blogs at the-herdbook.com.