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J Feline Med Surg. 2011 Dec;13(12):934-44. doi: 10.1016/j.jfms.2011.07.012. Epub 2011 Nov 10.

Mycobacterial disease in cats in Great Britain: I. Culture results, geographical distribution and clinical presentation of 339 cases.

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Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies and the Roslin Institute, Division of Clinical Veterinary Sciences, The University of Edinburgh, Easter Bush Veterinary Centre, Roslin, Midlothian, Scotland EH25 9RG, UK.


This study investigated 339 cases of feline mycobacterial disease from cats with cutaneous lesions or masses found at exploratory laparotomy. Tissue samples were submitted to the Veterinary Laboratories Agency for mycobacterial culture over a 4-year period to December 2008. The study assessed which species of culturable mycobacteria were involved, where the cats lived, and their clinical presentation (physical findings, serum biochemistry, radiography, feline leukaemia virus and feline immunodeficiency virus status). Mycobacterium microti was cultured from 19%, Mycobacterium bovis 15%, Mycobacterium avium 7%, non-M avium non-tuberculous mycobacteria 6%, with no growth in 53% of samples. M microti, M bovis and M avium were found in almost mutually exclusive clusters within Great Britain (GB) (ie, M bovis in South-West England/Wales/Welsh Border, M avium in eastern England and M microti south of London and in South-West Scotland). While differences were seen in the clinical presentation and distribution of lesions caused by the different infections, these were not sufficiently different to be diagnostic. Cats commonly presented with single or multiple cutaneous lesions (74%), which were sometimes ulcerated or discharging, located most frequently on the head (54%). Lymph nodes were usually involved (47%); typically the submandibular nodes. Systemic or pulmonary signs were rarely seen (10-16%). When a cat is suspected of having mycobacteriosis, accurate identification of the species involved helps to determine appropriate action. Our findings show that knowing the cat's geographic location can be helpful, while the nature of the clinical presentation is less useful. Most cases of feline mycobacterial disease in GB are cutaneous.

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