Human tuberculosis caused by M. bovis is a zoonosis presently considered sporadic in developed countries, but remains a poorly studied problem in low and middle resource countries. The disease in humans is mainly attributed to unpasteurized dairy products consumption. However, transmission due to exposure of humans to infected animals has been also recognized. The prevalence of tuberculosis infection and associated risk factors have been insufficiently characterized among dairy farm workers (DFW) exposed in settings with poor control of bovine tuberculosis.
Tuberculin skin test (TST) and Interferon-gamma release assay (IGRA) were administered to 311 dairy farm and abattoir workers and their household contacts linked to a dairy production and livestock facility in Mexico. Sputa of individuals with respiratory symptoms and samples from routine cattle necropsies were cultured for M. bovis and resulting spoligotypes were compared. The overall prevalence of latent tuberculosis infection (LTBI) was 76.2% (95% CI, 71.4–80.9%) by TST and 58.5% (95% CI, 53.0–64.0%) by IGRA. Occupational exposure was associated to TST (OR 2.72; 95% CI, 1.31–5.64) and IGRA (OR 2.38; 95% CI, 1.31–4.30) adjusting for relevant variables. Two subjects were diagnosed with pulmonary tuberculosis, both caused by M. bovis. In one case, the spoligotype was identical to a strain isolated from bovines.
We documented a high prevalence of latent and pulmonary TB among workers exposed to cattle infected with M. bovis, and increased risk among those occupationally exposed in non-ventilated spaces. Interspecies transmission is frequent and represents an occupational hazard in this setting.
Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex causes tuberculosis in humans and other mammals. The complex includes M. bovis, which causes bovine tuberculosis. The main route of transmission of this zoonosis is the consumption of unpasteurized dairy products. Nevertheless, exposure to infected cattle while performing husbandry and farm activities may cause disease as well. In this study we were able to demonstrate: 1) A high prevalence of tuberculosis asymptomatic infection (latent tuberculosis) among workers exposed to infected cattle; 2) A higher probability of infection among individuals who are occupationally exposed in closed spaces; and 3) Cattle to human transmission confirmed by molecular methods (spoligotyping). We conclude that occupational exposure is frequent, and therefore strict prevention and control measures are required in these settings.