24 November 1999
Bovine TB family face months-long probe
By Johann Tasker
MEDICAL experts could take months to confirm whether a Gloucestershire family suffering from tuberculosis caught the disease from infected cattle, it has emerged.
Health officials are continuing to investigate whether two unnamed people, aged between 15 and 44, contracted bovine TB following a herd breakdown on their farm.
The two victims are understood to be responding well to a course of antibiotics after it emerged last week that they had the bovine form of tuberculosis.
Bovine TB is rarely found in humans, but it can be transmitted – especially to those who come into close contact with infected cattle.
The farm in question had previously suffered a TB breakdown, fuelling speculation that the disease was passed from infected cattle to the two people concerned.
But it will take some time before the results of tests to identify the origin of the disease are known, the doctor at the centre of the case has warned.
“Bovine TB is the form of TB you will get if you are going to catch TB from cattle,” said Dr David Hunt of Gloucestershire Health Authority.
“On the other hand, its possible for bovine TB to be spread from one human to another and therefore you cant categorically say it is linked with cattle on that farm.”
Microbiologists are setting up sophisticated laboratory tests based on genetic finger-printing tests to assess where the infective TB agent came from.
They will examine DNA from the infected cattle to see whether it matches DNA in the two human victims. If it does, it is almost certain the disease came from cattle.