The first-ever roadmap to combat animal tuberculosis (bovine TB) and its transmission to humans, built on a ‘One Health Approach,’ addresses health risks across sectors.
Bovine TB, referred to as zoonotic TB, is most often transmitted through the consumption of contaminated untreated meat or dairy products from diseased animals.
The roadmap calls for closer collaboration between those working to improve human and animal health.
The Roadmap for Zoonotic TB was launched at the 48th Union World Conference on Lung Health, which took place in Guadalajara, Mexico last week and copied to the Ghana News Agency.
Four partners in health, the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (UN) and the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union) have joined forces to develop the roadmap and address the major health and economic impact of this disease.
New data released by WHO estimates that over 140,000 people fall ill and more than 12,000 people lose their lives each year to zoonotic TB – mostly in the African and the South-East Asian regions.
Dr Mario Raviglione, Director of the WHO Global TB Programme, said “we have made progress towards ending TB, yet to a large extent people with zoonotic TB are left behind. The priorities outlined in this roadmap highlight the need for multisectoral action to tackle this neglected form of TB and achieve the targets of the UN Sustainable Development Goals and WHO’s End TB Strategy.”
“Together we can save lives and secure livelihoods”.
Bovine TB is most often communicated to humans through food consumption, usually non-heat-treated dairy products or raw or improperly cooked meat from diseased animals. Direct transmission from infected animals or animal products to people can also occur.
“This multidisciplinary roadmap represents a milestone in the fight against TB in both people and animals,” said Dr Paula I Fujiwara.
“Better technologies, better science and better governance for affected communities bearing the bovine TB burden in poorer rural areas must become the new mantra if we are to get on the path to eliminating TB everywhere”.
But zoonotic TB is largely hidden. The advanced laboratory tools are required to diagnose zoonotic TB are frequently unavailable. The disease is resistant to pyrazinamide – one of the standard first-line medications used to treat TB. Patients are therefore often misdiagnosed and may receive ineffective treatment.
Dr Berhe Tekola, Director of the FAO Animal Production and Health Division, said “We must recognise the interdependence of the health of people and animals in the fight against TB. Specifically, bovine TB, caused by Mycobacterium bovis, affects cattle, threatens people’s livelihoods and results in major economic and trade barriers, as well as posing a major risk to food safety and human health.”
The roadmap, supported by the four partners, articulates ten priority actions that human and animal health actors should take, and defines milestones for the short- and medium-term:
IMPROVE THE EVIDENCE BASE
It called for a systematic survey, collect, analyse and report better quality data on the incidence of zoonotic TB in people, and improve surveillance and reporting of bovine TB in livestock and wildlife.
Expand availability of appropriate diagnostic tools and capacity for testing to identify and characterize zoonotic TB in people at the same time identify and address research gaps in zoonotic and bovine TB including epidemiology, diagnostic tools, vaccines, effective patient treatment regimens, health systems, and interventions coordinated with Veterinary Services.
REDUCE TRANSMISSION BETWEEN ANIMALS AND HUMANS
It called for the development of strategies to improve food safety and capacity of the animal health sector to reduce the prevalence of TB in livestock and identify key populations and risks pathways for transmission of zoonotic TB.
STRENGTHEN INTERSECTORAL COLLABORATION
It asked that awareness is increased awareness of zoonotic TB, engage the key public and private stakeholders and establish effective intersectoral collaboration as well as develop and implement policies and guidelines for the prevention, surveillance, diagnosis, and treatment of zoonotic TB, in line with intergovernmental standards where relevant.
It called for opportunities for community-tailored interventions that jointly address human and animal health and again develop an investment case to advocate for political commitment and funding to address zoonotic TB across sectors, at the global, regional and national levels.
Many of these recommended interventions for controlling bovine and zoonotic TB will also bring substantial benefits for the prevention of other zoonotic and food-borne diseases, for example, caused by Brucella.
Dr Matthew Stone, OIE Deputy Director General, International Standards and Science, said, “Preventing and controlling bovine TB at its animal source is crucial to avoid its transmission to humans, improve food safety and protect the livelihood of many rural communities. To this aim, the implementation of strategies based on international standards and a cross-sectoral approach will enable improved surveillance and diagnosis of the disease in animals and consequently reduce the risks for humans”.
Bovine TB also threatens the animal welfare and those with livelihoods based on livestock. The disease can economically devastate cattle production with losses related to animal production, markets and trade, as well as costs incurred to implement surveillance and control programmes.
In order to eliminate the disease, domestic livestock found to be infected with bovine TB must be slaughtered under veterinary supervision.
Wealthier countries are affected as well. In the U.S., more than US$200 million was required in emergency funding between 2000 and 2008 to respond to bovine TB outbreaks. Wildlife can also be infected, serving as a reservoir of infection for livestock and people. This can potentially threaten wildlife conservation efforts.
The roadmap is a critical call for action to energise the response and resources urgently needed to tackle zoonotic and bovine TB.