Bovine TB or Mycobacterium bovis or bovine tubercle bacillus is part of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex.
The organism is carried by many animals including deer, cats, dogs, pigs, alpacas, sheep and, of course, cattle.
Mycobacterium bovis is an aerobic bacterium and the cause of TB in cattle.
Bovine TB could jump the species barrier and cause Tuberculosis in humans and this is where the problem has been historically.
In the 1930's and 40's it was responsible for over 50,000 cases a year and 2,500 deaths annually.
By 1960, all herds had been tested twice for TB and all animals which had tested positive, or 'reactors', were slaughtered and it became a notifiable disease. The government introduced compulsory cattle testing and devised a compensation programme for all destroyed cattle.
In the last decade, human contraction of TB from animals has seen only a handful of cases.
Pasteurisation of milk, immunisation and healthy diet has seen the number of cases reduce dramatically over the last 100 years and in most circles it is considered no longer a human concern.
Farming practices have changed and food has become cheaper. Ironically, this intensive farming shows the highest rate of bTB reacting cattle.
For the farmers, bTB is a very distressing issue. Cattle with Bovine TB cannot be moved (PDF HERE) and this causes great financial strain on farmers. Whilst vaccinations for BCG are available for cattle, there is currently no approved test to differentiate between wild TB and vaccinated TB; although one has been researched and is currently being validated.
The Diva Test is almost ready (PDF HERE)
It should be noted, cattle with bTB lesions do routinely and legitimately enter the food chain. We fully sympathise with farmers who are affected by this awful disease.
The risk of a human being infected by cattle is thought to be minimal PDF HERE
Randomised Badger Culling Trial PDF HERE