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Tuberculosis and One Health – What is in a Name?

By Susanna Sternberg Lewerin

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Most control programs for bovine tuberculosis include reporting to both veterinary and public health authorities, and measures to prevent transmission from animals to humans. On the other hand, reporting of human cases to veterinary authorities is rare, unless an animal source is suspected. Exchange of data and strategic discussions between veterinary and public health authorities would strengthen tuberculosis surveillance in both animal and human populations.

A One Health approach is clearly warranted for tuberculosis. The disease has similarly serious consequences for humans and a broad range of animal species, and it has been strongly advocated as a One Health issue (1). Yet, tuberculosis cases in humans and animals are commonly treated as separate problems (23).

Tuberculosis is caused by bacteria within the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex (MTBC). “Bovine tuberculosis” usually means infection in cattle with Mycobacterium bovis (34). However, this definition may be too restrictive, and the term bovine tuberculosis has been proposed to signify infection in cattle with any bacteria in the MTBC (56). Similarly, “human tuberculosis” usually refers to infection in humans with M. tuberculosis, while “zoonotic tuberculosis” refers to human infection with M. bovis (7). However, for control and monitoring purposes, as well as a One Health approach, it would be preferable to use the terms “human tuberculosis” and “bovine tuberculosis” for infection with all bacteria within the MTBC in humans and cattle, respectively. Consequently, infections in other host species could be named after the host species, complemented by specifying the infecting bacterial species. In the following, the term “tuberculosis” is used for infection with bacteria within the MTBC, regardless of host species.


Mason N McLary

HABRI Central

Date 2015
Publication Title Frontiers in Veterinary Science
Volume 2
Issue 54
Publisher Frontiers
DOI 10.3389/fvets.2015.00054
Language English
Additional Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  • Susanna Sternberg Lewerin (2017), "Tuberculosis and One Health – What is in a Name?,"

    BibTex | EndNote

  1. Animal health and hygiene
  2. Animal roles
  3. Animals in culture
  4. Animal welfare
  5. Epidemiology
  6. Health
  7. nomenclature
  8. one health
  9. Social Environments
  10. terminology
  11. Tuberculosis
  12. Veterinary medicine
  13. Zoonoses