24 August 1998
Human TB watch stepped up
as cattle cases rise
SURVEILLANCE of human cases of tuberculosis (TB) is to be stepped up because of concern that the cattle strain of the disease may pose a greater threat to public health than previously thought.
The move has been prompted by the rising number of farms infected with bovine TB and the discovery that pasteurisation may not be killing all the harmful bacteria in milk.
Farmers and farmworkers in direct contact with cattle are thought to be at particularly risk. Those who drink unpasteurised milk could also be in danger.
The screening techniques of local laboratories will be improved with the aim of doubling the number of TB cases analysed for the presence of the cattle bug.
At present, there is no comprehensive information on the proportion of TB cases caused by the cattle bacterium because only a limited number of central laboratories are equipped to identify the organism. These laboratories are dependent on the quality of the data from smaller laboratories.