Tuberculosis (TB)

What is zoonotic tuberculosis (TB)?

A cow and a woman in the street.
WHO/A Dean

Zoonotic TB is a form of tuberculosis in people caused by Mycobacterium bovis, which belongs to the M. tuberculosis complex. Cattle are the most important animal reservoir for M. bovis in relation to zoonotic exposure of humans, but the disease can affect many other species and become established in wildlife reservoirs. It results in important economic losses and trade barriers with a major impact on the livelihoods of poor and marginalized communities.

Zoonotic TB poses special challenges for patient treatment and recovery. The advanced laboratory tools required to diagnose M. bovis are frequently unavailable. M. bovis is inherently resistant to pyrazinamide, one of the essential first-line medications used to treat TB. Patients are therefore often misdiagnosed and may receive ineffective treatment.

Global situation

A herder with his cows.
WHO/M Raviglione

In 2016, there were an estimated 147 000 new human cases of zoonotic TB globally, and 12 500 deaths due to zoonotic TB. The African region carries the heaviest burden of disease and death due to zoonotic TB, followed by the South-East Asian region. The true burden of zoonotic TB is likely to be underestimated due to a lack of routine surveillance data from most countries.

A One Health approach to zoonotic TB

Participants from the first consultation to galvanize action against Zoonotic TB organized by WHO and The Union.
WHO/HM Dias
WHO and The Union organize first consultation to galvanize action against Zoonotic TB, April 2016

WHO’s END TB strategy calls for diagnosis and treatment of every TB case. This must include people affected by zoonotic TB. Zoonotic TB in humans cannot be fully addressed without considering the underlying burden of disease in the animal reservoir and the risk pathways for transmission at the animal-human interface - a One Health approach linking animal, human, and environmental health sectors. The tripartite of WHO, the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) together with The International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease have led the development of a comprehensive roadmap for combatting zoonotic TB in people and bovine TB in animals.

For more information on global animal health and agriculture:

Roadmap for zoonotic tuberculosis

The multisectoral "Roadmap for zoonotic tuberculosis" details ten priorities for addressing zoonotic tuberculosis in people and bovine tuberculosis in animals. It calls for concerted action through broad engagement across political, financial and technical levels, including government agencies, donors, academia, non-governmental organizations and private stakeholders. This marks an important milestone in the fight to end the global tuberculosis epidemic. To end the global TB epidemic by 2030, we must act today.

fact buffet

Global burden

147 000 new cases of zoonotic TB globally in 2016

Global tuberculosis report 2016

Deaths

12 500deaths due to zoonotic TB globally in 2016

Zoonotic TB factsheet
pdf, 732kb

Highest regional burden

Africathe region of Africa carries the heaviest burden of disease and death

Roadmap for zoonotic TB

News and events

  • October 2017

    Roadmap for zoonotic tuberculosis

    A multi-sectoral roadmap for addressing zoonotic TB was jointly launched by WHO, OIE, FAO and The Union at the 48th Union World Conference on Lung Health in Guadalajara. This marks an important milestone in the fight to end the global tuberculosis epidemic. The roadmap for zoonotic tuberculosis lays down ten priorities underpinned by three core themes.

  • November 2016

    47th Union World Conference on Lung Health

    Zoonotic TB featured at the 47th Union World Conference on Lung Health in Liverpool, with some resources provided below:

  • September 2016

    Call for action against zoonotic TB

    A call for action against zoonotic TB was published in Lancet Infectious Diseases, co-authored by WHO, The International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).

  • June 2016

    WHO’s Strategic and Technical Advisory Group for TB

    WHO’s Strategic and Technical Advisory Group for TB (STAG-TB) recognised the importance of addressing zoonotic TB in the context of the UN Sustainable Development Goals and WHO’s End TB Strategy 2016-2035. STAG-TB recommended that particular attention be given to raising awareness and documenting the disease burden through strengthened surveillance.

  • April 2016

    Consultation on zoonotic TB

    WHO and The International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease convened the first consultation on zoonotic TB in over twenty years in Geneva in April 2016. The meeting brought together experts from both human and animal health sectors, including international organisations, non-governmental organisations and academia. The group formulated key actions to combat zoonotic TB in the context of the WHO End TB Strategy, which will be developed into a comprehensive roadmap for release in 2017.

  • December 2015

    Zoonotic TB featured at the 46th Union World Conference on Lung Health in Capetown, South Africa