Humans catch TB from pet cats in 'world first'

Health officials investigated a TB outbreak in nine cats in Berkshire and Hampshire. Credit: Arno Burgi/DPA

Two people have developed tuberculosis (TB) after contact with a cat in the first ever recorded cases of cat-to-human transmission, officials have said.

An outbreak in nine cats was investigated in Berkshire and Hampshire last year by Public Health England (PHE) and the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboritaries Agency (AHVLA).

PHE said it had offered screening to 39 people identified as having had contact with the infected cats, of which 24 accepted.

Two people were found to have active TB, while two others had latent TB - meaning they had been exposed to the disease at some point but did not have an active infection.

The infections were the result of infection with a bacteria known as Mycobacterium bovis, which causes TB in cattle (known as bovine TB) and in other animals.

PHE said there there have been no further cases of TB in cats reported in Berkshire or Hampshire since March 2013 and said it believed the risk of transmission from cats to humans was "very low".