Review Article

Challenges for controlling bovine tuberculosis in South Africa

Luke F. Arnot, Anita Michel
Onderstepoort Journal of Veterinary Research | Vol 87, No 1 | a1690 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ojvr.v87i1.1690 | © 2020 Luke F. Arnot, Anita Michel | This work is licensed under CC Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0
Submitted: 03 September 2018 | Published: 27 February 2020

About the author(s)

Luke F. Arnot, Department of Production Animal Studies, Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa; and, Bovine Tuberculosis and Brucellosis Research Programme, Department of Veterinary Tropical Diseases, Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
Anita Michel, Bovine Tuberculosis and Brucellosis Research Programme, Department of Veterinary Tropical Diseases, Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa


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Abstract

All effects taken together, bovine tuberculosis (bTB) has a long-term detrimental effect on bovine herds and many wildlife species in South Africa. The disease is not only found in domestic cattle but also in African buffaloes and has to date been diagnosed in 21 wildlife species, including several rare and endangered species, thus having a potentially serious effect on conservation and biodiversity. In cattle, bTB is mostly characterised by sporadic outbreaks, but bovine herds chronically infected with the clinical disease are not uncommon. Presently, the recognised bTB control strategy in South Africa is based on ‘test and slaughter’, using the intradermal tuberculin test, followed by the slaughter of animals that have tested positive. Affected herds are placed under veterinary quarantine with movement restrictions until the outbreak is eradicated; this can take several years or last indefinitely if the outbreak cannot be eradicated. The same measures apply to infected buffalo populations, often with no prospect of ever being eradicated. This strategy is neither practical nor viable in the context of a communal farming system and becomes unethical when dealing with valuable wildlife reservoir hosts. Transmission of bTB between wildlife and cattle has been demonstrated and emphasises the need for an effective, affordable and culturally acceptable control strategy to curb the spread of bTB in South Africa. In countries with similar challenges, vaccination has been used and found to be promising for treating wild and domestic reservoir species and may hence be of value as a complementary tool for bTB control in South Africa.

Keywords

African buffalo; bovine tuberculosis control; cattle; conservation; game farming; Mycobacterium bovis

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