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PLoS One. 2013 Oct 10;8(10):e76891. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0076891. eCollection 2013.

Transmission of Mycobacterium tuberculosis between farmers and cattle in central Ethiopia.

Author information

Animal Health and Zoonotic Research Unit, Aklilu Lemma Institute of Pathobiology, Addis Ababa University, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia ; TB Research Team, Armauer Hansen Research Institute, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.



Transmission of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (M. tuberculosis) complex could be possible between farmers and their cattle in Ethiopia.


A study was conducted in mixed type multi-purposes cattle raising region of Ethiopia on 287 households (146 households with case of pulmonary tuberculosis (TB) and 141 free of TB) and 287 herds consisting of 2,033 cattle belonging to these households to evaluate transmission of TB between cattle and farmers. Interview, bacteriological examinations and molecular typing were used for human subjects while comparative intradermal tuberculin (CIDT) test, post mortem and bacteriological examinations, and molecular typing were used for animal studies. Herd prevalence of CIDT reactors was 9.4% and was higher (p<0.01) in herds owned by households with TB than in herds owned by TB free households. Animal prevalence was 1.8% and also higher (p<0.01) in cattle owned by households with TB case than in those owned by TB free households. All mycobacteria (141) isolated from farmers were M. tuberculosis, while only five of the 16 isolates from cattle were members of the M. tuberculosis complex (MTC) while the remaining 11 were members of non-tuberculosis mycobacteria (NTM). Further speciation of the five MTC isolates showed that three of the isolates were M. bovis (strain SB1176), while the remaining two were M. tuberculosis strains (SIT149 and SIT53). Pathology scoring method described by "Vordermeier et al. (2002)" was applied and the average severity of pathology in two cattle infected with M. bovis, in 11 infected with NTM and two infected with M. tuberculosis were 5.5, 2.1 and 0.5, respectively.


The results showed that transmission of TB from farmers to cattle by the airborne route sensitizes the cows but rarely leads to TB. Similarly, low transmission of M. bovis between farmers and their cattle was found, suggesting requirement of ingestion of contaminated milk from cows with tuberculous mastitis.

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