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Cat Food Possibly Behind Disease Outbreak In Humans And Cats

A gourmet brand of cat food has been linked to cases of bovine tuberculosis in the UK, with at least 50 cats and two owners infected by the disease.

A study published in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery found that 13 cats had been infected last year by bovine tuberculosis (TB), a rare disease caused by bacteria that generally affects cattle and wild deer.

In cats, the disease causes a general state of illness, coughing, lesions in the lungs, inflammation of the lymph nodes, and eventual death in many cases.

The cases first came to light when six cats were taken to vets across the UK with signs that they'd been infected with the TB bacteria.

Source: Getty.

Five of the cats were too sick to treat or deteriorated despite intervention and died (giving the outbreak a mortality rate of 83 percent).

A probe launched by veterinarians and researchers found that the Bovine TB had most likely been spread by the British cat food brand, Natural Instincts.

The company recalled this product in December of 2018 following the outbreak but a spokesperson assured customers that the company "followed, and continues to follow, every food standard, hygiene regulation and best practice required to produce raw pet food in the commercial marketplace."

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Contact with wildlife, unpasteurised milk or infected rodents were all ruled out as possible sources of the infection and the Natural Instincts food was pinpointed as the cause of the outbreak -- however, no tests on original food samples could be done so this could not be verified with absolute certainty.

Since the publication of the study, researchers have continued receiving reports of cats with Bovine TB in 30 households across the UK, according to the Times.

Source: Getty.

At least two owners have reportedly been infected by the disease as well and it is not yet known what has caused the continuation of the infections.

100 people and 90 cats have now been referred for testing.

Cases of Bovine TB are rare but not unheard-of in the UK. Between 1990 and 2003, between 17 and 50 new cases of the disease were confirmed every year.

Bovine TB can be treated and cured in humans with first-line antibiotics.

Bovine Tuberculosis was successfully eradicated in Australia in 1997. Source: Getty.

Most of these cases were related to the consumption of unpasteurised milk or infections contracted abroad.

Australia successfully eradicated Bovine TB in 1997 following an intensive eradication program that began in 1970. Australia is the only major exporter of livestock that is free of the disease.

Raw pet food is more likely to be contaminated with pathogens than dry food -- one 2014 study found that 66 samples of raw jerky or raw meat pet food out of 576 tested positive for Listeria and Salmonella, as compared to two positive samples of dry pet food.