Agri-Health / Article / Disease Control / East Africa / Epidemiology / Ethiopia / Human Health / ILRI / Zoonotic Diseases

An old-fashioned disease threatens ancient culture / emerging economy: TB in Ethiopia

'A Disease Called Poverty', ILRI poster

ILRI’s ‘A disease called poverty’ poster: An old-fashioned deadly disease is emerging from an ancient culture and an emerging economy (poster credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

‘Ethiopia has the largest cattle population in Africa. The vast majority of the national herd is of indigenous zebu cattle maintained in rural areas under extensive husbandry systems. However, in response to the increasing demand for milk products and the Ethiopian government’s efforts to improve productivity in the livestock sector, recent years have seen increased intensive husbandry settings holding exotic and cross breeds. This drive for increased productivity is however threatened by animal diseases that thrive under intensive settings, such as bovine tuberculosis (BTB), a disease that is already endemic in Ethiopia.’

This warning appears in a paper published in the science journal PLOS One in Dec 2012. SciDevNet has just published an article about the findings, which reports the following.

The high incidence of bovine tuberculosis (BTB) in cattle on large dairy farms in central Ethiopia threatens farmers’ incomes and public health, according to a study.

As a result, the study calls for a concerted effort to control the disease and prevent the transmission of Mycobacterium bovis, the bacteria that causes it, to humans consuming dairy products from these farms.

‘Speed read

  • Almost a third of cattle from Ethiopian dairy farms tested positive for bovine TB
  • Infected cattle may produce less milk and can infect humans
  • Testing and culling the infected cattle recommended to control the spread of the disease

‘Around 30 per cent of the nearly 3,000 dairy cattle from 88 herds around the capital, Addis Ababa, that were investigated for the study tested positive for BTB, while more than half the herds contained cattle that gave positive tests,’ report SciDevNet.

With the central importance of animal agriculture in Ethiopia today, ‘the authors say that the high infection rate in the dairy farms is “likely to pose a serious risk to public health and deserves a targeted intervention as early as possible”.

‘The researchers suggest that “government and policymakers should work together with stakeholders to design methods for the control of BTB in intensive farms in Ethiopia”. . . .

Henry Kiara, an epidemiologist and senior research officer at the International Livestock Research Institute in Nairobi, Kenya, agrees that the most effective control measure is to test and cull animals that test positive for BTB.

“There would have to be some form of compensation for farmers who volunteer the sick animals for this to succeed, hence the critical role of the Ethiopian government,” he tells SciDev.Net.

Read the whole article at SciDev.Net: Bovine TB in Ethiopia ‘threatens health and farm incomes‘, 4 Feb 2013.

Read the scientific paper in PLOS One: High prevalence of bovine tuberculosis in dairy cattle in central Ethiopia: Implications for the dairy industry and public health, 28 Dec 2012.

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