DAIRY FARMERS will have to follow tough new rules designed to control the spread of an infectious bug that may be spreading to humans through milk, reports The Guardian.

The bug, called Mycobacterium Avium Paratuberculosis , can survive pasteurisation and is strongly believed to be linked to Crohn‘s disease.

John Hermon-Taylor of St Georges Hospital medical school said it was “inconceivable” that the bug was not linked to Crohn‘s disease as 90% of suffers carry the bacteria.

Crohn‘s disease is a debilitating, intestinal condition suffered by about 100,000 Britons. Symptoms include diarrhoea, abdominal pain, weight loss and fatigue.

“In the light of new data becoming available, the Department of Health can no longer ignore the strength of scientific evidence,” said Prof Hermon-Taylor.

The government said such a link “has not been proved or disproved” but will adopt a precautionary approach to limit the cattle disease Johne‘s which is caused by the MAP bug.

Guidance will be issued by DEFRA in June that will advise farmers to screen herds for Johne‘s disease and prevent infection through contaminated watercourses and pastures.

DEFRA will also offer advice on how to prevent spread to calves which can take years to develop the wasting condition. 

Johne‘s is difficult to control as it can take years to develop the first signs of the disease once the animal has been infected.

Estimates of MAP infection vary, but a survey suggests that 17.5% of herds may include infected animals, says The Guardian.