Bovine tuberculosis (TB) caused by Mycobacterium bovis is primarily a disease of ruminants, particularly cattle (Bos primigenius) and buffalo (Syncerus caffer), and is endemic in most developing countries. To date, studies done in Uganda have documented the prevalence of M. bovis in cattle, humans and wild life, in addition to non-tuberculous mycobacteria in pigs. Pigs are increasingly becoming an important component of the livestock sector and share the human ecosystem in rural Uganda. It is therefore of public health interest that they are not a source of human infections. As a follow up to previously published findings on mycobacteria in pigs, this study was aimed at investigating the occurrence and molecular characteristics of M. bovis detected in slaughter pigs in Mubende district, Uganda. One hundred fifty mesenteric lymph nodes with lesions suggestive of mycobacterial infections were collected from approximately one thousand slaughtered pigs in Mubende district over a period of five months. The isolation and identification of M. bovis was done using conventional mycobacteriological methods. Mycobacteria belonging to the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex (MTC) were identified to species level using deletion analysis. Molecular typing was done using Spoligotyping and MIRU-VNTR analysis. Molecular data were analysed and interpreted using MIRU-VNTR plus, SpolDB4.0 and the Mycobacterium bovis spoligo database.
Of the examined animals, one boar and two sows from Madudu Sub County were infected with M. bovis which presented as lesions of a deep yellow colour and a grit-like texture in the mesenteric lymph nodes. This represents 2% (3/150) of the lymph nodes where lesions suggestive of mycobacterial infections were detected. Molecular analysis revealed that the isolates from the infected pigs showed identical MIRU-VNTR profile and spoligotype (SB1469).
This is the first study documenting the occurrence of M. bovis in slaughter pigs in Uganda, revealing that one in fifty slaughter pigs with suspected lesions in mesenteric lymph nodes were infected. Molecular analysis revealed that the isolates were identical, showing a spoligotype previously reported from humans and cattle in the north eastern part of the Uganda cattle corridor. This finding is of public health importance, therefore there is a need for close cooperation between medical and veterinary professionals in designing and implementing control and prevention measures that safeguard the public from this potential source of zoonotic TB in Uganda.