Tackling Bovine Tuberculosis in Nigeria

Samuel Oyejola FASLN and Dr Zarah Yusuf FASLN

Tuberculosis for a long time is a public health challenge in Nigeria. It is one communicable disease that has claimed lives and has continued to claim lives among humans. However for animals, there are revelations that bovine TB, a form of Tuberculosis found in cattle is becoming epidemic in the country among humans. This challenge pose not a little set back to the combined effort of the government and development partners to eradicate the disease in the country by 2030.


Bovine tuberculosis (bTB) is a chronic infectious and contagious zoonotic disease of domestic animals, wild animals and humans. It is characterized by the formation of granulomas in tissues, especially in the lungs, lymph nodes, liver, intestine and kidney.


According to a research carried out in Gombe state, North-West Nigeria, between 2008 and 2015, out of 154,562 slaughtered heads of cattle examined at postmortem, 1,202 had typical tuberculous lesions and overall total prevalence rate of 0.78%. The annual prevalence was significantly higher in 2015 (1.04%) with the lowest records in 2011(0.34%).


African Science Literacy Network (ASLN) Fellows  independent observation at major abattoirs in the Federal Capital Territory revealed that in spite the prevalence of the disease among cattle in the country, the needful can be done to prevent human infection.


At the Deidei abattoir, one of the major abattoir in the capital city, health officials ensure that cattle and other domestic animals lined out for slaughter are inspected and assured to be physically fit for human consumption before they are matched to the slaughter slabs.


Although they are inspected and ensure that any that present any form of TB symptoms are closely monitored, the cattle are slaughtered and postmortem tests are carried out to confirm the rate of infection. Infected cattle would have lesions in the lungs and any other parts of the intestine. Where this infection is noticed, the infected part of the slaughtered cattle are removed, confiscated and properly disposed.

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Photo credit: Daily Nigerian

“If one of the animals has bovine TB, it will present persistent cough. If it also tally with the climatic season when it is most prevalence then by the time the animal is taken in for slaughter, you now do what is called post mortem check,” said Dr. Uche Anazodo, one of the health officials tasked with inspection of cattle meant for slaughter and consumption at the Deidei Slaughter House in Bwari Area Council of the Federal Capital Territory.


This process is part of the standard to ensure that beef sold for consumption in the country are safe for ingestion and portends no danger to consumers’ health. The reality however is that while the cattle slaughtered in public and private slaughter houses are inspected and certified for human consumption, cattle slaughtered at private home and outside the slaughter houses usually evade due process.


In Nigeria, over 400,000 new cases of TB are recorded annually, making Nigeria one of the countries with high record of the disease globally.


Global efforts to combat the spread of this zoonotic disease resulted in the launch of a multidisciplinary Roadmap for zoonotic tuberculosis in 2017 with the World Health Organization joining forces with other international agencies like the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease.


Ending the global TB pandemic by 2030 has a direct factor with the increasing spread of bTB. These organizations agreed that by 2020, improvement in capacity of national health-care and laboratory services for diagnosing and treating zoonotic tuberculosis; scaled-up efforts to improve national food safety standards; and for zoonotic and bovine tuberculosis are targets that are expected to be properly addressed by government authorities.


For Dr. Anazodo, preventing human contact of bTB can simply be prevented if beef are well cooked prior to human consumption. “It is a zoonotic disease. If infected beef is not cooked properly, it can infect human. Normally you do not just come around cattle… if the meat is cooked properly it may not infect human. Human can only get infected from animals through consumption,” he explained.


Meanwhile, the WHO and other international interested bodies in the eradication of bTB and Tb envisioned that by 2025, rapid diagnostic tools should be available for diagnosing zoonotic TB and rolled-out to high risk groups, while appropriate drug regimens defined for effective treatment of zoonotic TB and Anti-TB vaccine are available for people and rolled-out.


More also new diagnostic assays should be provided by the government for livestock; effective bovine TB vaccines available for livestock and rolled-out in endemic settings; multi-species transmission pathways and sources of infection better characterized and used to inform the design of appropriate interventions; and mainstreaming of One Health approaches into efforts to improve human and animal health at global, national and community levels.


In Nigeria, the 2020 targets may be far from being met with government attention focused on other diseases that are not zoonotic. However with sincere commitment both the 2020 and 2025 targets can be achieved in collaboration with both local and international development partnersWith over 400,000 new cases of TB in Nigeria, it is important that bTB be factored into the eradication of TB policy of the government.

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