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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Prevalence and risk factors for infection of bovine tuberculosis in indigenous cattle in the Serengeti ecosystem, Tanzania

Bugwesa Z Katale12*, Erasto V Mbugi1, Esron D Karimuribo3, Julius D Keyyu2, Sharon Kendall4, Gibson S Kibiki5, Peter Godfrey-Faussett6, Anita L Michel7, Rudovick R Kazwala3, Paul van Helden8 and Mecky I Matee1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Microbiology and Immunology, School of Medicine, Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences (MUHAS), P.O BOX 65001, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

2 Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute (TAWIRI), P.O BOX 661, Arusha, Tanzania

3 Department of Veterinary Medicine and Public Health, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA), P.O BOX 3021, Morogoro, Tanzania

4 Centre for Emerging, Endemic and Exotic diseases, Royal Veterinary College (RVC), Hawkshead Lane, North Mymms, Hatfield, Hertfordshire AL9 7TA, UK

5 Kilimanjaro Christian Medical College, Kilimanjaro Clinical Research Institute (KCRI), Tumaini University, P.O. BOX 2240, Moshi, Tanzania

6 Department of Infectious and Tropical Diseases, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), London, UK

7 Department of Veterinary Tropical Diseases, Faculty of Veterinary Sciences, University of Pretoria, Private Bag X4, Onderstepoort 0110, South Africa

8 DST/NRF Centre of Excellence for Biomedical Tuberculosis Research/MRC Centre of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Division of Molecular Biology and Human Genetics, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Stellenbosch, Tygerberg, Capetown, South Africa

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BMC Veterinary Research 2013, 9:267  doi:10.1186/1746-6148-9-267

Published: 30 December 2013



Bovine tuberculosis (bTB) is a chronic debilitating disease and is a cause of morbidity and mortality in livestock, wildlife and humans. This study estimated the prevalence and risk factors associated with bovine tuberculosis transmission in indigenous cattle at the human-animal interface in the Serengeti ecosystem of Tanzania.


A total of 1,103 indigenous cattle from 32 herds were investigated for the presence of bTB using the Single Intradermal Comparative Tuberculin Test. Epidemiological data on herd structure, management and grazing system were also collected.

The apparent individual animal prevalence of tuberculin reactors was 2.4% (95% confidence interval (CI), 1.7 – 3.5%), whereas the true prevalence was 0.6% CI, 0.6 – 0.7% as indicated by a reaction to avian tuberculin purified protein derivatives (PPD) which is more than 4 mm greater than the reaction to avian tuberculin PPD. The results showed that 10.6% (117/1,103) showed non-specific reactions (atypical mycobacterium). The herd prevalence of 50% (16/32) was found. Tuberculin skin test results were found to be significantly associated with age, location, size of the household and animal tested. Of 108 respondents, 70 (64.8%) individuals had not heard about bovine tuberculosis at all. Thirty five percent (38/108) of respondents at least were aware of bTB. About 60% (23/38) of respondents who were aware of bTB had some knowledge on how bTB is spread. Eighty one percent (87/108) of respondents were not aware of the presence of bTB in wildlife. There is regular contact between cattle and wild animals due to sharing of grazing land and water sources, with 99% (107/108) of households grazing cattle in communal pastures.


The study has demonstrated a high reported interaction of livestock with wildlife and poor knowledge of most cattle owners concerning bTB and its transmission pathways among people, livestock and wildlife. Although the overall proportion of animals with bTB is relatively low, herd prevalence is 50% and prevalence within herds varied considerably. Thus there is a possibility of cross transmission of bTB at wildlife-livestock interface areas that necessitates use of genetic strain typing methods to characterize them accurately.

Risk factors; Bovine tuberculosis; Mycobacterium bovis; Human-animal interface; Serengeti ecosystem; Wildlife