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Four partners in health join forces to eradicate bovine TB

GUADALAJARA, OCTOBER 12 – The first-ever roadmap to combat animal tuberculosis (bovine TB) and its transmission to humans, referred to as zoonotic TB, was launched today at the 48th Union World Conference on Lung Health in Guadalajara, Mexico, this week. The Roadmap for Zoonotic TB calls for close collaboration between those working to improve   human and animal health. It is built on a One Health approach, addressing health risks across sectors.

Four partners in health, the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union) have joined forces to develop the roadmap and address the major health and economic impact of this disease. “We have made progress towards ending TB, yet to a large extent people with zoonotic TB are left behind. The priorities outlined in this roadmap highlight the need for multisectoral action to tackle this neglected form of TB and achieve the targets of the UN Sustainable Development Goals and WHO’s End TB Strategy,” said Mario Raviglione, Director of the WHO Global TB Programme. “Together we can save lives and secure livelihoods”.

New data released by the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that over 140,000 people fall ill and more than 12,000 people lose their lives each year to zoonotic TB – mostly in the African and the South-East Asian regions. The Roadmap articulates 10 priority actions that human and animal health actors should take, and defines milestones for the short- and medium-term.

Bovine TB is most often communicated to humans through food consumption, usually non-heat-treated dairy products or raw or improperly cooked meat from diseased animals. Direct transmission from infected animals or animal products to people can also occur.

“This multidisciplinary roadmap represents a milestone in the fight against TB in both people and animals,” said Paula I Fujiwara, Scientific Director, The Union. “Better technologies, better science and better governance for affected communities bearing the bovine TB burden in poorer rural areas must become the new mantra if we are to get on the path to eliminating TB absolutely everywhere”.

But zoonotic TB is largely hidden. The advanced laboratory tools are required to diagnose zoonotic TB are frequently unavailable. The disease is resistant to pyrazinamide – one of the standard first-line medications used to treat TB. Patients are therefore often misdiagnosed and may receive ineffective treatment.

“We must recognise the interdependence of the health of people and animals in the fight against TB.  Specifically, bovine TB, caused by Mycobacterium bovis, affects cattle, threatens people’s livelihoods and results in major economic and trade barriers, as well as posing a major risk to food safety and human health,” said Berhe Tekola, Director of the FAO Animal Production and Health Division. (@OnuItalia)

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