New Evidence for Possible Airborne Transmission of Mycobacterium bovis — Physician’s First Watch

Medical News |
March 4, 2016

New Evidence for Possible Airborne Transmission of Mycobacterium bovis

By Cara Adler

Edited by André Sofair, MD, MPH, and William E. Chavey, MD, MS

Two cases of Mycobacterium bovis tuberculosis in Nebraska provide additional evidence for possible airborne person-to-person transmission of the disease, according to a contact investigation in MMWR.

In 2014, a 42-year-old man and an unrelated 16-year-old girl who went to the same church were diagnosed with M. bovis tuberculosis 4 months apart, both after several months of cough and illness. Testing of 181 contacts identified 25% with latent M. bovis infection.

The investigators speculate that the man became infected by eating unpasteurized dairy products from Mexico and that the girl acquired the infection from him by airborne transmission. (M. bovis can cause tuberculosis in humans who eat unpasteurized dairy products from infected cows. Although mostly eradicated in U.S. cattle, bovine M. bovis infection persists around the world.)

The authors note that although tuberculosis caused by M. bovis is "clinically indistinguishable" from that caused by M. tuberculosis, treatment differs because M. bovis is usually resistant to pyrazinamide.

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