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Selected content from the Animal Health and Production Compendium (© CAB International 2013). Distributed under license by African Union – Interafrican Bureau for Animal Resources.

Whilst this information is provided by experts, we advise that users seek veterinary advice where appropriate and check OIE manuals for recent changes to regulations, diagnostic tests, vaccines and treatments.

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Identity    Pathogen/s    Overview    Distribution    Distribution Map for Africa    Distribution Table for Africa    Host Animals    Systems Affected    Epidemiology    Pathology     Diagnosis    Disease Course    Disease Treatment Table    Disease Treatment    Vaccines    Prevention and Control    References    Links to Websites    OIE Reference Experts and Laboratories    Images



Preferred Scientific Name
International Common Names
English acronym
avian tuberculosis, avian tuberculosis, mycobacterium infection, bovine tuberculosis, bovine tuberculosis, mycobacterium in cattle, caprine tuberculosis, caprine tuberculosis, mycobacterium in goats, mycobacteriosis, ovine tuberculosis, ovine tuberculosis, mycobacterium in sheep, porcine tuberculosis, porcine tuberculosis, mycobacterium in pigs, tuberculosis-associated focal necrotizing encephalitis in cattle, white plague




Mycobacterium africanum
Mycobacterium avium
Mycobacterium bovis
Mycobacterium tuberculosis




Mycobacteria found in soil and water have been isolated from tissues of animals (Kazda, 1973; Falkinham et al., 1979). Mycobacterium fortuitum, a rapidly growing organism that is highly resistant to penicillin G, streptomycin, ampicillin, sulfamethoxazole and chloramphenicol has been associated with mastitis in cows, lymph node lesions in swine, and cutaneous lesions. Drug susceptibility tests indicate the organism is inhibited by capreomycin and by ethionamide. Mycobacterium chelonei, another rapidly growing mycobacterium similar to M. fortuitum in biochemical tests has been isolated from contaminated wounds and injection abscesses. These organisms must be distinguished from M. phlei, M. smegmatis and M. vaccae, which are non-pathogens.

A photochromogenic organism, M. kansasii, has been isolated from swine and cattle. These organisms can be differentiated using biochemical tests and have been associated with non-specific tuberculin responses.

Mycobacterium scrofulaceum is a scotochromogen that has been isolated from lymph node lesions in swine and cattle. M. xenopi, a slowly-growing scotochromogen has been isolated from swine and seafowl. These organisms should be differentiated from M. gordonae, another slowly growing scotochromogenic mycobacterium that is a common contaminant of water.

Numerous non-pathogenic mycobacteria, which closely resemble potential pathogens may be isolated from water and soil. M. gastri, M. triviale, M. terrae, which closely resemble strains of M. avium complex, may be differentiated by in vitro laboratory examinations.

Although opportunistic, non-M. bovis mycobacteria usually fail to produce progressive disease, they may however, be important in inducing transient tuberculin skin sensitivity in animals. As a consequence, the application of comparative cervical skin tests using biologically balanced purified protein derivatives prepared from the culture filtrate of M. bovis or from M. avium have been used to ensure specificity of the test to detect M. bovis infection. Tuberculins prepared for veterinary use for the comparative skin test contain approximately 5000 tuberculin units per test dose and are interpreted 72 h after intradermal injection: exposed animals have a delayed-type hypersensitivity. The comparative skin test is estimated to be 70% sensitive. A more recent test using gamma interferon on activated white blood cells is thought to have a higher sensitivity and to detect exposed cattle earlier in the infection process.

Bacteriologists working in diagnostic laboratories are concerned with opportunistic mycobacteria, because it is necessary to differentiate these organisms from pathogens of greater clinical significance such as M. bovis, M. avium complex and M. tuberculosis.

Pathogenic acid-fast bacilli of the genus Mycobacterium usually cause chronic, debilitating disease. However, tuberculosis caused by M. tuberculosis, M. bovis or M. avium can occasionally assume an acute, rapidly progressive course especially in immunocompromized hosts (Inglies and Weipers, 1963; Thoen and Waite, 1990). Mycobacteria affect nearly all species of vertebrate animals and, before control measures were adopted, was one of the major diseases of man and domestic animals (Thoen, 1994a,b). The signs and lesions are generally similar in the various species.


Three main types of tubercle bacilli are recognized: Mycobacterium tuberculosis, M. bovis and M. avium. The principal reservoirs of these are man, cattle and birds, respectively. Types of tubercle bacteria differ in cultural characteristics and pathogenicity. The two mammalian types are much more closely related to each other than they are to the avian type.

All three types may produce infection in host species other than their own (Francis, 1958). Mycobacterium tuberculosis is most specific; it rarely produces progressive disease in animals other than non-human primates and occasionally, dogs and parrots. Mycobacterium bovis, the cause of bovine tuberculosis, is capable of causing progressive disease in most warm-blooded vertebrates (Thoen, 1996). Mycobacterium avium ss avium is the only one of consequence in birds; but is also pathogenic for swine, cattle, sheep, mink, dogs, cats and cold-blooded animals (Thoen et al., 1984; Thoen and Williams, 1994). M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis is the cause of Johne's disease in cattle and other ruminants. Mycobacteria other than tubercle bacilli (MOTT) such as, M. fortuitum, M. chelonei, M. intracellulare and M. kansasii are infrequently isolated from domestic animals.

This disease is on the list of diseases notifiable to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE). The distribution section contains data from OIE's WAHID database on disease occurrence. Please see the AHPC library for further information on this disease from OIE, including the International Animal Health Code and the Manual of Standards for Diagnostic Tests and Vaccines. Also see the website:




A total of 21 African countries reported 1123 outbreaks of Tuberculosis to the AU-IBAR in 2011 (see table below) which contrasts with just 15 outbreaks reported in 2010. A total of 4950 cases were reported with 3364 animals slaughtered which is again a significant increase compared to the situation in 2010. DRC recorded the highest number of cases (1944), followed by Tunisia (1047), Malawi (391) and Cote d'Ivoire (296).

Countries reporting tuberculosis to AU-IBAR in 2011

Congo Brazzaville24008
Congo DRC3119442310690
Côte d'Ivoire242968327423
South Africa37NSNSNSNS
Tunisia6051047 1074NS
Total (21)11234950184336460

 NS=Not specified



Distribution Map for Africa

 Distribution Map for AfricaDistribution Map for Africa

present, no further details = Present, no further details    widespread = Widespread    localised = Localised
confined and subject to quarantine = Confined and subject to quarantine    occasional or few reports = Occasional or few reports
evidence of pathogen = Evidence of pathogen    last reported = Last reported...    presence unconfirmed = Presence unconfirmed



 Distribution Table for Africa

The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further information for individual references may be available in the Animal Health and Production Compendium. A table for worldwide distribution can also be found in the Animal Health and Production Compendium.

CountryDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasiveReferencesNotes
AlgeriaPresent    OIE, 2012 
AngolaPresent    OIE, 2012; Wunschmann & Matos, 1990 
BeninPresent    OIE, 2012 
BotswanaPresent    AU-IBAR, 2011 
Burkina FasoPresent    OIE, 2012 
BurundiPresent    OIE, 2012 
CameroonReported present or known to be present    Awa et al., 1999; OIE Handistatus, 2005 
Cape VerdeReported present or known to be present    OIE1997; OIE Handistatus, 2005 
Central African RepublicPresent    OIE, 2012 
ChadPresent    OIE, 2012 
ComorosPresent    OIE, 2012 
CongoPresent    AU-IBAR, 2011 
Congo Democratic RepublicPresent    OIE, 2012 
Côte d'IvoirePresent    OIE, 2012 
DjiboutiDisease not reported    OIE Handistatus, 2005 
EgyptPresent    AU-IBAR, 2011 
EritreaPresent    OIE, 2012 
EthiopiaPresent    OIE, 2012 
GhanaPresent    OIE, 2012; Lawn, 2000 
GuineaDisease never reported    OIE Handistatus, 2005 
Guinea-Bissau     OIE, 2012 
KenyaPresent    OIE, 2012; OIE1997; OIE Handistatus, 2005 
LibyaPresent    OIE, 2012 
MadagascarPresent    OIE, 2012 
MalawiPresent    OIE, 2012 
MaliNo information available    OIE1997; OIE Handistatus, 2005 
MauritiusLast reported2011   OIE, 2012 
MoroccoPresent    OIE, 2012 
MozambiquePresent    OIE, 2012 
NamibiaLast reported1995   OIE, 2012 
NigerPresent    OIE, 2012 
NigeriaPresent    OIE, 2012 
RéunionLast reported1942   OIE Handistatus, 2005 
RwandaPresent    OIE, 2012 
Sao Tome and PrincipeDisease not reported    OIE Handistatus, 2005 
Senegal     OIE, 2012 
SeychellesNo information available    OIE Handistatus, 2005 
Somalia     OIE, 2012 
South AfricaPresent    OIE, 2012 
SudanLast reported1992   OIE, 2012 
SwazilandPresent    OIE, 2012 
TanzaniaPresent    OIE, 2012 
TogoPresent    OIE, 2012 
TunisiaPresent    OIE, 2012 
UgandaPresent    OIE, 2012 
ZambiaPresent    OIE, 2012 
ZimbabweLast reported1996   OIE, 2012 



 Host Animals

Animal name Context 
Acinonyx jubatus  
Bos grunniens (yaks) Domesticated host, Wild host 
Bos indicus (zebu) Domesticated host 
Bos taurus (cattle) Domesticated host 
Bubalus bubalis (buffalo)  
Canis familiaris (dogs)  
Canis latrans (Coyote)  
Capra hircus (goats) Domesticated host 
Capreolus capreolus  
Cervus dama  
Cervus elaphus (red deer)  
Equus caballus (horses) Domesticated host, Wild host 
Gallus Domesticated host 
Gallus gallus domesticus (chickens)  
Homo sapiens  
Kobus leche kafuensis  
Lama pacos (alpacas)  
Macaca fascicularis (crab-eating macaque)  
Meles meles  
Mustela putorius  
Odocoileus virginianus  
Ovis aries (sheep) Domesticated host 
Panthera leo (lion)  
Papio ursinus  
Phasianus colchicus (ring-necked pheasant)  
Sus scrofa (pigs) Domesticated host, Wild host 
Tragelaphus scriptus  



Systems Affected

Bones (& Feet) - Large Ruminants
Bones (& Feet) - Pigs
Bones (& Feet) - Poultry
Digestive - Large Ruminants
Digestive - Pigs
Digestive - Poultry
Digestive - Small Ruminants
Mammary Glands - Large Ruminants
Mammary Glands - Pigs
Mammary Glands - Small Ruminants
Nervous - Large Ruminants
Nervous - Pigs
Nervous - Poultry
Nervous - Small Ruminants
Reproductive - Large Ruminants
Reproductive - Pigs
Reproductive - Poultry
Reproductive - Small Ruminants
Respiratory - Large Ruminants
Respiratory - Pigs
Respiratory - Poultry
Respiratory - Small Ruminants
Skin - Large Ruminants
Skin - Pigs
Skin - Poultry
Skin - Small Ruminants
Urinary - Large Ruminants
Urinary - Pigs
Urinary - Poultry





This disease used to be very prevalent, particularly in dairy cattle, but control programmes have greatly reduced the incidence in many countries. A number of countries have virtually eradicated tuberculosis from cattle (O'Reilly and Daborn, 1995). However, several countries have not eradicated bovine tuberculosis and the control programme is being investigated. This includes the UK and Irish Republic. In these countries the eradication programme consists of testing cattle using the comparative skin test and culling positive reactor cattle and detection of infected cattle in abattoirs. In both situations contact cattle are traced and tested. There has been much research into the failure to eliminate bovine TB in these countries. In both countries a wildlife reservoir, the badger, is associated with bovine tuberculosis in cattle. In countries where bovine TB is considered eradicated (such as France and The Netherlands) cattle carcasses are monitored at the abattoir and backward tracing is done when a confirmed cases is detected. The whole herd is culled once it is confirmed exposed to Mycobacterium bovis. The source of infection is usually other infected cattle.

Tuberculous animals with open lung lesions expel infected droplets into the air by coughing. Such animals also swallow sputum and thus contaminate pasture, water and cowsheds via the faeces. Adult animals are infected by the inhalation of airborne dust particles as well as by ingestion of contaminated feed or water. Drinking contaminated milk may infect young calves (Huchzermeyer et al., 1994).


Mycobacterium tuberculosis, M. bovis and M. avium have been isolated from swine with tuberculous lesions. Outbreaks of M. tuberculosis in swine have been associated with the feeding of uncooked garbage from hospitals or residences housing human cases. Regulations in many developed countries require that garbage be cooked before being fed to animals. Enforcement of these regulations has contributed to the reduction of disease caused by M. tuberculosis. Since tuberculous humans can spread disease directly to pigs by sputum or body excretions, they should not be allowed to care for swine.


Tuberculosis is rare in sheep, including in areas where tuberculosis is frequently observed in other species, such as cattle and goats (Cordes, 1981; Allen, 1988). However, evidence of transmission from cattle and goats has been observed (Cordes, 1981; Gutiérrez et al., 1997).


Mycobacterium avium ss avium serovars 1 and 2 are the usual cause (Meissner et al., 1978; Thoen, 1997). M. avium is very resistant, surviving in the soil for as long as 4 years or more. The disease occurs worldwide, most commonly in small barnyard flocks and in birds in zoo aviaries (Montali et al., 1976). It is rarely found in pullet flocks. Wild birds, such as cranes, sparrows, starlings and raptors, have been found infected (Thoen, 1993; Thoen, 1994a,b: Thoen, 1998).

Infected birds with advanced lesions excrete the organism in their faeces. Cadavers and offal may infect predators and cannibalistic flockmates. Rabbits, swine and mink are readily infected. Cattle may become sensitized to M. bovis PPD tuberculin and to M. avium PPD tuberculin. Certain serovars of M. avium may cause disease in man and the lesions are usually limited.




Clinical Findings

The signs exhibited depend upon the extent and location of the lesions. Enlarged superficial lymph nodes provide a useful diagnostic sign; however, small lesions located in deep lymph nodes are of little or no value in establishing a clinical diagnosis.


The lesions in swine infected with M. tuberculosis are often associated with lymph nodes of the gastrointestinal tract. Caseous lesions are most commonly found in the mesenteric or submaxillary lymph nodes; however, microscopic lesions have been observed in the portal and thoracic nodes and in the parenchyma of the lung. The lesions, characterized by the presence of epithelioid cells, with an occasional giant cell, cannot be consistently differentiated, on either gross or microscopic examination, from those caused by M. avium (Thoen, 1999).

Swine have been reported to be very susceptible to M. bovis. Progressive lesions are usually observed in submaxillary lymph nodes and the lungs; well defined tubercles may be present in the liver, spleen, and lymph nodes in the thoracic and abdominal cavities. Microscopically, granulomas may contain caseated centres with some mineralization. Giant cells and epithelioid cells are usually present in lesions in the lung. Although acid-fast bacilli can be demonstrated on appropriately stained sections, it should be emphasized that only a few tubercle bacilli may be observed. Outbreaks of infection are usually found on premises where tuberculosis has been diagnosed in cattle. Yards or buildings contaminated with faecal material that contains organisms may serve as a source of infection. Milk from infected cows has also been cited as a possible source of tubercle bacilli. Animals are usually infected by ingestion of the organism. There is little evidence for pig to pig transmission. Tuberculin tests are useful in diagnosis (Thoen, 1999).

Swine are susceptible to M. avium ss avium. In herds in which infections occur, lesions are reported in up to 55% of the slaughter swine. Carcasses with evidence of lesions in two or more body cavities are condemned or passed for cooking. Lesions due to M. avium cannot be consistently differentiated on gross or histopathologic examination from lesions due to M. bovis or M. tuberculosis. To confirm a diagnosis it is necessary to isolate and identify the etiologic agent (Thoen, 1999).

Sheep and goats

Information on the occurrence of tuberculosis in goats indicates they are susceptible to M. bovis (Gutiérrez and Marin, 1993; Gutiérrez et al., 1995; Gutiérrez et al., 1998). In natural and experimental infections with M. bovis, lesions are usually present in the lungs and associated lymph nodes. Tubercles may be present in the liver, spleen and other organs. Histologically, the lesions are very similar to those observed in cattle. Well-defined granulomas are observed and characterized by the presence of epithelioid cells and numerous giant cells (Bernabe et al., 1991; Marin et al., 1992). Acid-fast bacilli are usually present; however, the number of organisms varies greatly for different animals (Gutierrez and Marin, 1993).


Usually there are no signs until the disease has progressed to the point where the bird is thin and sluggish (Thoen, 1997). Lameness may be observed. Granulomatous nodules of varying size are found in many organs. In chickens, these are usually in the liver, spleen, bone marrow and intestine; however, some exotic species may have liver and spleen lesions without intestinal involvement. Bone marrow nodules and small mesenteric nodules may be found. Lesions are not calcified.




Clinical diagnosis is usually possible only after tuberculosis has reached an advanced stage. Most infected animals have become shedders of bacilli by this time and are a menace to other animals. The most reliable and practical method of reaching tentative diagnosis in large domestic animals is to apply the tuberculin skin test. Animals infected with mycobacteria are allergic to the proteins contained in tuberculin and develop characteristic delayed-type hypersensitivity reactions when exposed to tuberculoproteins. If tuberculin is deposited in the deep layers of the skin (intradermally), a local reaction characterized by inflammation and swelling is usually elicited in infected animals, whereas non-infected animals fail to develop such reactions at the injection site.

Animals suffering from infection with either M. bovis or M. tuberculosis react equally to tuberculin prepared from the culture filtrate of either organism. When testing for avian tuberculosis, whether in birds or mammals, an M. avium PPD tuberculin must be used, as such animals react less to tuberculin made from the culture filtrate of M. bovis.

The dose used in the intradermal tuberculin test is 0.1 ml (0.1 mg Protein) of a suitable tuberculin, containing 5,000 tuberculin units, in mammals and 0.05 ml in chickens. In the USA the larger mammals are usually injected in one of the folds at the base of the tail or in skin of the cervical region, swine in the skin behind the ear or vulva, and chickens in the skin of the wattle. The injection sites are examined by observation and palpation for characteristic swelling 48 hours after injection for swine and chickens, and in 72 hours for cattle, sheep and goats.


Nearly all countries are now using a strain of Mycobacterium bovis for the preparation of purified protein derivative (PPD) tuberculin. Heat concentrated synthetic-medium old tuberculin (OT) is only infrequently used in some countries. A majority of the countries are now using purified protein derivative (PPD) tuberculin at a protein concentration of 1 mg/ml. The PPD tuberculins are preferable because they are easier to standardize and more specific than OT. Moreover, PPD tuberculins are particularly useful in the comparative-cervical (c-c) tuberculin test used to differentiate responses caused by M. bovis or M. tuberculosis and those induced by other mycobacteria. In cattle, the c-c test is performed by injecting biologically balanced M. avium and M. bovis PPD tuberculins into separate sites in the skin of the neck. The difference in the size of the 2 resultant responses usually indicates whether tuberculin sensitivity is caused by infection with M. bovis rather than by M. avium ss avium or M. avium ss paratuberculosis, or by other mycobacteria in the environment. These organisms are responsible for some of the false positive tuberculin reactions which are a major problem in areas where tuberculosis has been nearly eliminated and in those areas where infection with M. bovis was reduced to a low level (O'Reilly and Daborn, 1995).

The incidence of reactors with no gross lesions can be greatly reduced by the use of the c-c tuberculin test applied by experienced personnel; however, the c-c tests should not be used in herds where M. bovis has been diagnosed. The sensitivity and specificity of the intradermal test often depends on the field conditions, prevalence and other factors (Francis et al., 1978). Other diagnostic methods also based on the cellular immune response and performed in vitro, such as the gamma IFN test, has been developed and used, with similar results to the intradermal test (Whitty and O'Boyle, 1968; Wood et al., 1990; Wood et al., 1991; Gutiérrez et al., 1998). Serological tests can be useful when used in conjunction with the intradermal or gamma IFN test (Thoen et al., 1983; Ritacco et al., 1991; Wood et al., 1991; Gutiérrez et al., 1998). To confirm a diagnosis of tuberculosis, it is necessary to isolate and identify the etiologic agent. Cultural results usually require 6 to 8 weeks. The presence of specific lesions is also useful (Corner, 1994). However, not all true positive cases of tuberculosis will grow on culture.

Immunohistological methods to detect M. bovis antigen in paraffin sections can also be used (Gutiérrez and Marin, 1993). Different PCR techniques have also been reported to be useful in the diagnosis of M. bovis infections (Cousins et al., 1991; Soolingen et al., 1994). A DNA probe has been developed for identifying M. bovis in formalin-fixed, paraffin embedded tissues and results are available in a few days (Miller et al., 1997). Molecular techniques have been developed for use in the differentiation of strain-genotypes of M. bovis; these techniques have been applied in epidemiologic investigations in different animals (Kruiningen et al., 1988; Collins et al., 1994; Gutiérrez et al., 1995; Liebana et al., 1996; Gutiérrez et al., 1997).


The tuberculin skin test is conducted using M. avium PPD injected intradermally on the dorsal surface of the ear and the site observed at 48 hours for swelling and induction.

Sheep and goats

The diagnosis of tuberculosis in goats is usually made as in cattle (Gutiérrez et al., 1998). The tuberculin skin test appears to be a reliable method for detecting animals infected with M. bovis (Perrin et al., 1984; Gutiérrez et al., 1998). M. bovis PPD can be injected in the skin of the cervical or shoulder regions. The test sites should be observed for induration and swelling 72-hours post-injection. An increase in skin thickness of 2 to 4 mm or more is considered a positive reaction (Perrin et al., 1984; Gutiérrez et al., 1998). A confirmative diagnosis of M. bovis requires a positive culture from lesions.

The tuberculin skin test is of value in the diagnosis of tuberculosis in sheep. It should be emphasized that both avian and mammalian tuberculins of equal potency should be used because of the susceptibility of sheep to M. avium ss avium and M. avium ss paratuberculosis.


Live birds may be tested with M. avium PPD tuberculins. The finding of large numbers of acid-fast bacteria in smears from lesions provides a tentative diagnosis. Recently, a rapid technique for identifying M. avium in formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tissues has been detected (Gyimesi et al., 1999). To confirm a diagnosis it is necessary to isolate the organism.



Disease Course


Mycobacterium bovis infection commences with the formation of a primary focus, which in cattle is in the lung in a majority of cases; the primary lesion in poultry is nearly always in the intestinal tract. Lymphatic drainage from the primary focus in mammals leads to the formation of caseous lesions in the adjacent lymph node; this lesion, together with the primary focus, is known as the 'primary complex'. This primary complex seldom heals in animals, but may progress slowly or rapidly (Nieberle and Cohrs, 1966; Huchzermeyer et al., 1994).

Wherever the organisms localize, their activity stimulates the formation of granulomas and in advanced cases these appear as tumour-like masses called tubercles (Thoen and Chiodini, 1993; Thoen and Bloom, 1995). Because of the continued growth of the organisms these tubercles often enlarge until they become of a great size. Large masses may develop on the serous membranes of the body cavities. As the granulomas increase in size, necrosis of their central portions may occur. Finally, these are reduced to caseous masses, which have a tendency to undergo mineralization or liquefaction. In mammals, tubercles may become enclosed in dense fibrous tissue and the disease becomes arrested. Advanced lesions associated with clinical disease include large and extensive, caseous nodules or cavities with liquidation (Gutiérrez and Marin, 1993; Huchzermeyer et al., 1994; Gutiérrez et al., 1998). When the bacilli escape from the primary foci they travel via the lymph and blood streams, becoming lodged in other organs and tissues where they establish other tubercles. When the blood stream is invaded by numerous tubercle bacilli from a local lesion, many tubercles develop in the major organs. The acute form of generalization, known as miliary tuberculosis, is often rapidly fatal.

If small numbers of bacilli enter the circulation from the primary complex, more isolated lesions develop in other organs. These generalized lesions may become encapsulated and remain small for extended periods, usually causing no detectable signs (Nieberle and Cohrs, 1966; Thoen and Himes, 1986; Huchzermeyer et al., 1994). The evolution of the lesion from early infection of the lung macrophage, to the development of caseous nodules, calcification and liquidation, as well as the regression or progression of the lesion and possible generalization, depends on the immune host bacilli balance (Dannenberg, 1989). Different types of lesion, immune response and amount of bacilli can be expected. It has been defined as an immunopathological spectrum of mycobacterial infections (Ridley, 1983).

The general signs are weakness, anorexia, dyspnea, emaciation and low-grade fluctuating fever. In mammals, the organs of the thoracic cavity are usually involved. When the lungs are extensively involved, there is commonly an intermittent, hacking cough mainly after exercise. The principal sign of tuberculosis is wasting or emaciation that occurs despite good nutrition (Nieberle and Cohrs, 1966; Gutiérrez and Marin, 1993; Huchzermeyer et al., 1994; Gutiérrez et al., 1998).


Early lesions are usually found in the chest and sometimes in the lymph nodes of the head or intestines (Nieberle and Cohrs, 1966; Corner, 1994; Huchzermeyer et al., 1994). In advanced stages of the disease, lesions may be found in many organs and tissues that are seldom affected, including lesions in the udder, intestine, uterus, lymph nodes, kidneys, liver and the meninges with varying frequency. The skeletal muscles are very seldom affected, even in advanced cases. Tuberculosis of the udder is of special significance because of the contamination of milk with viable tubercle bacilli.


M. bovis may cause lesions similar to those observed in cattle. Evidence for generalization of the disease includes the presence of lesions in the lungs, bronchial and mediastinal lymph nodes as well as spleen and kidney (Whipple et al., 1992). M. avium can also produce pulmonary lesions in sheep.


Tuberculosis is a slowly spreading, chronic, granulomatous bacterial infection of chickens and captive exotic birds. It is characterized by gradual weight loss (Feldman, 1938).



Disease Treatment Table

DrugDosage, administration and withdrawal timesLife stagesAdverse affectsDrug resistanceType
Bacillus of Calmette and Guerin (BCG) Used routinely for humans and occasionally for cattle. Follow manufacturers and veterinary directions. All Stages/Juvenile  No Vaccine 
ethambutol Follow manufacturers or veterinary instructions.   No Drug 
isoniazid Variable doses needed. Follow manufacturers or veterinary instructions.   Yes Drug 
pyrazinamide Follow manufacturers or veterinary instructions.   No Drug 
rifampacin Follow manufacturer or veterinary instructions   No Drug 



Disease Treatment

Until the discovery of the antituberculosis drug isonicotinic acid hydrazide (INH) there was no practical therapeutic agent available for the treatment of bovine tuberculosis. Reports from Brazil and South Africa suggest that it is feasible to treat cattle with isoniazid. The disadvantages are so great, however (up to 25% refractory cases, emergence of drug resistant strains, elimination of INH in the milk and the danger of relapse when the drug is withdrawn) that the treatment of bovine tuberculosis is not allowed in the United States or in many other countries.




VaccineDosage, Administration and Withdrawal TimesLife StagesAdverse Affects
Bacillus of Calmette and Guerin (BCG) Used routinely for humans and occasionally for cattle. Follow manufacturers and veterinary directions.   



Prevention and Control


The main reservoir of Mycobacterium bovis is cattle, however, badgers, buffalo, cervids, goat, cats, possums and feral pigs can be infected (Parra et al., 2006; Cleaveland et al., 2005). In the UK and Irish Republic intervention studies where badgers have been culled from certain areas and not others indicate a reduction in bovine TB reactors where badgers are removed (Griffin et al., 2005; More and Good, 2006). However, the relationship between badgers and cattle is not straight forward and partial culling of badgers has been proposed to exacerbate bovine TB (Donnelly et al., 2003; Donnelly et al., 2006). There is also evidence that bovine TB is circulated by cattle movements (Gilbert et al., 2005; Green and Cornell, 2005). Other countries also have a named wildlife reservoir. In New Zealand the possum (Coleman and Cooke, 2001) and in the USA the white tailed deer (O'Brien et al., 2002) are considered to be a major risk for infection in cattle. In UK, studies have indicated that many other wildlife species are infected with M. bovis, but the risk to cattle is unknown.

There are four principal approaches to the control of tuberculosis:

  1. test and slaughter
  2. test and segregation
  3. immunization
  4. chemotherapy.

The test-and-slaughter method consists of the application of the tuberculin test and the slaughter of reacting animals. This method has been widely used in the USA, Canada and Australia and in most European countries.

While BCG (Bacillus of Calmette and Guerin) vaccine is an immunizing agent used in humans in some high-risk areas, it does not completely prevent infection in cattle. Moreover, vaccinated cattle react on the tuberculin skin test. Countries that attempted to use vaccination as the basis of a control program have ultimately abandoned the procedure in favour of the test-and-slaughter method. It should be noted that there is some interest in the development of new DNA vaccines.


Chemotherapy is not effective. In commercial poultry flocks, relatively rapid turnover of populations, together with improved general sanitation, has largely eliminated the once common infection. Infected poultry should be destroyed. If housed, the facilities should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected using cresylic compounds. Dirt-floored houses should have several inches of the floor removed and replaced with dirt from a place where poultry have not been maintained. All openings should be screened against wild birds. It is best not to reuse ranges where tuberculous poultry have been kept. Avian tuberculosis in birds in zoo aviaries is difficult to eradicate. New additions to the aviary should be quarantined for 60 to 90 days.




African Union-Interafrican Bureau for Animal Resources, 2011. Panafrican Animal Health Yearbook 2011. Pan African Animal Health Yearbook, 2011:xiii + 90 pp.

Allen GM, 1988. Tuberculosis in sheep - a very rare disease. Surveillance, 15(5):8-9; 12 ref.

Awa DN, Njoya A, Tama ACN, Ekue FN, 1999. The health status of pigs in North Cameroon. Revue d'élevage et de Médecine Vétérinaire des Pays Tropicaux, 52(2):93-98; 10 ref.

Bengis RG, Kriek NPJ, Keet DF, Raath JP, Vos Vde, Huchzermeyer HFAK, 1996. An outbreak of bovine tuberculosis in a free-living African buffalo (Syncerus caffer-Sparrman) population in the Kruger National Park: a preliminary report. Onderstepoort Journal of Veterinary Research, 63(1):15-18.

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In this case the granulomas are small and widespread and described as 'miliary'. © John Walton (Deceased)In this case the granulomas are small and widespread and described as 'miliary'. © John Walton (Deceased)
The granuloma is contained within a fibrous capsule. The disease can result in acute illness, but often progresses to a chronic debilitating disease which responds poorly to treatment due to the inability of antimicrobial drugs to penetrate the fibrous capsule of the lesion. © Paul R. GreenoughThe granuloma is contained within a fibrous capsule. The disease can result in acute illness, but often progresses to a chronic debilitating disease which responds poorly to treatment due to the inability of antimicrobial drugs to penetrate the fibrous capsule of the lesion. © Paul R. Greenough


Date of report: 03/06/2013

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