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. M. bovis is naturally resistant to pyrazinamide, one of the four medications used in the standard first-line anti- TB treatment regimen. Zoonotic TB in humans is often extrapulmonary and may be misdiagnosed, and therefore initiation of treatment can be delayed.

Global situation

A herder with his cows.
WHO/M Raviglione

In 2015, there were an estimated 149 000 new human cases of zoonotic TB globally, and 13 400 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

WHO’s END TB strategy 2016-2035 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 are leading the development of a comprehensive roadmap for combatting zoonotic TB in both people and animals.

For more information on global animal health and agriculture:

fact buffet

Global burden

149 000 new cases of zoonotic TB globally in 2015

Global tuberculosis report 2016

Deaths

13 400deaths due to zoonotic TB globally in 2015

Fact flyer
pdf, 541kb

Highest regional burden

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

Global tuberculosis report 2016

News and events

  • 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