The Union applauds world leaders’ commitment to action against zoonotic tuberculosis

On 3 October 2018, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly formally approved the Political Declaration on the Fight Against Tuberculosis, a landmark document negotiated by UN member states for the UN General Assembly High Level Meeting On the Fight To End Tuberculosis (TB), held on 26 September 2018.

The High Level Meeting (HLM) was the first time in history that the UN General Assembly convened heads of state and government to discuss solutions to the global TB epidemic, currently the biggest infectious disease killer worldwide. The TB political declaration endorsed as an outcome of the HLM establishes the first global framework for action against TB to be taken by leaders at the highest levels of government worldwide.

The political declaration focused on human TB caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis. However, as part of the overarching plans to control and eradicate TB globally, it also acknowledged the need to combat bovine TB and zoonotic TB, a form of TB that is primarily caused by Mycobacterium bovis.

The Union applauds the inclusion of bovine and zoonotic TB within the UN political declaration. We urge national health leaders to implement the recommendations of the Roadmap for Zoonotic Tuberculosis, endorsed by The Union and the tripartite of the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO). These recommendations are based on the One Health approach, which systematically and comprehensively addresses TB in both humans and animals.

Addressing zoonotic and bovine TB remains an essential, yet neglected, part of the global TB response. Communities living and working alongside livestock, and those who consume untreated food products such as meats, milk, and cheeses contaminated with M. bovis derived from animals who are themselves sick with TB, are vulnerable to infection with this specific species of TB-causing mycobacteria, which is distinct from the species of bacterium responsible for causing most tuberculosis in humans, Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Symptoms of TB caused by M. bovis—called “bovine TB” when it appears in animals and “zoonotic TB” when it appears in humans—can differ from the more common form of TB. M. bovis in humans also requires a different antimicrobial treatment approach, as the organism is naturally resistant to the drug pyrazinamide—a medication used as part of the standard TB treatment regimen.

According to the World Health Organization’s Global Tuberculosis Report 2018, an estimated 142,000 people developed zoonotic TB and 12,500 died from it in 2017, mostly in countries in Africa and South-East Asia, though all regions are affected.

The declaration made by G20 Health Ministers, at their recent meeting in Mar del Plata, Argentina, recognised the One Health approach as critical to addressing the threat of zoonotic diseases and accelerating global health security.

Successful implementation of the strategies and plans outlined in the UN HLM declaration and the Roadmap for Zoonotic Tuberculosis will require broad engagement of veterinarians, public health officials, wildlife experts, researchers, as well as the general public to raise awareness of the threat of bovine and zoonotic TB, and to undertake coordinated, multi-sectoral actions to end this disease.

Working with our partners who address bovine and zoonotic TB, The Union urges heads of state and government to act urgently to fulfill the commitments laid out in the political declaration on TB and stands ready to assist in those efforts.

Recognition of zoonotic and bovine TB in the UN Political Declaration On the Fight Against Tuberculosis:

Paragraph 5. Recognize other recent high-level commitments and calls for action against tuberculosis, including against its multidrug-resistant and zoonotic forms, made by global, regional and sub-regional bodies and meetings, including the Delhi End TB Summit held from 12 to 17 March 2018;

Paragraph 17. Recognize the enormous, often catastrophic, economic and social impacts and burden of tuberculosis for people affected by the disease, their households, and affected communities, and that the risk and impact of tuberculosis can vary depending on demographic, social, economic and environmental Circumstances, and, in order to make the elimination of tuberculosis possible, prioritizing, as appropriate, notably through the involvement of communities and civil society and in a non-discriminatory manner, high-risk groups as well as other people who are vulnerable or in vulnerable situations, such as women and children, indigenous peoples, health care workers, migrants, refugees, internally displaced people, people living in situations of complex emergencies, prisoners, people living with HIV and AIDS, people who use drugs particularly those who inject drugs, miners and others exposed to silica, urban and rural poor, underserved populations, undernourished people, individuals who face food insecurity, ethnic minorities, people and communities at risk of exposure to bovine tuberculosis, people living with diabetes, people with mental and physical disabilities, people with alcohol use disorders, and people who use tobacco, recognizing the higher prevalence of tuberculosis among men;

Recognition of zoonotic disease in the Declaration endorsed by G20 Health Ministers, Mar del Plata, Argentina, 4 October 2018:

Paragraph 40: In addition to the leadership of WHO, the G20 recognizes the critical contributions of both FAO and OIE, including through the three organizations’ tripartite cooperation to address the threats of zoonotic diseases and improve animal health sector capacities and implement One Health, multi-sectoral approaches to accelerate health security.