Two people catch TB from domestic cats

Two people in England have developed tuberculosis after contact with a domestic cat. Nine cases of cats infected with a bacteria that causes TB were investigated in Berkshire and Hampshire by Public Health England during 2013.

Disease passed on from cats to humans for first time

Video. Cats have passed the disease TB onto humans for the first time ever. Public health experts say two cat owners have developed tuberculosis and a further two people have a dormant form of it. The disease is usually associated with cattle and badgers.

In total, nine cats from Hampshire and Berkshire have been infected with Mycobacterium Bovis that causes TB. Six animals died or were put down, two are under going treatment and one tabby cat, called Milhouse, has run away.

It's the first evidence that the disease can spread from cats to humans, but officials say the risk is still very low.

Andrew Pate spoke to vet Carl Gorman and Clare Farley whose cat died from suspected TB.

Tests showed cat-to-human spread most likely

Credit: ITV Meridian

Tests by scientists investigating cases of tuberculosis in cats and humans showed that the TB bug taken from the infected pets was indistinguishable from samples taken from the two people suffering from the disease. This indicated the people had been infected by the animals.

For two other people, who had latent TB infection, which means they had been exposed to TB bacteria but were not ill, it was not possible to confirm the source of their exposure.

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Risk of TB spread from animals "is low"

Public Health England says the risk of tuberculosis spreading from cats to humans is low - in the wake of two people catching the disease from pets.

There have been no new cases since March last year.

Nine cats were found to be infected in Hampshire and Berkshire.

It's important to remember that this was a very unusual cluster of TB in domestic cats. M. bovis is still uncommon in cats - it mainly affects livestock animals. These are the first documented cases of cat-to-human transmission, and so although PHE has assessed the risk of people catching this infection from infected cats as being very low, we are recommending that household and close contacts of cats with confirmed M. bovis infection should be assessed and receive public health advice."

– Dr Dilys Morgan, Pubic Health England

Two people treated for tuberculosis

Two people have developed tuberculosis after contact with a domestic cat infected with the bug Mycobacterium bovis (M. bovis), according to Public Health England (PHE) and the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA).

M. bovis is the bacterium that causes tuberculosis (TB) in cattle and in other species. In 2013, AHVLA and PHE investigated nine cases of infection in domestic cats in Berkshire and Hampshire.

PHE offered screening, as a precaution, to 39 people who had come into contact with infected cats - 24 accepted. Further investigations revealed two people had been exposed to TB but were not ill and two had active infections. Both are responding to treatment.