Felis ISSN 2398-2950

Mycobacterium tuberculosis

Synonym(s): M. tuberculosis

Contributor(s): Danielle Gunn-Moore, Melissa Kennedy




  • Genus: Mycobacterium- closely related to CorynebacteriumNocardia and Rhodococcus.
  • Family: Mycobacteriaceae.


  • Gr: myces- a fungus; bakterion - a small rod. L: tuberculum- a small swelling.

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Clinical Effects



  • Reservoir in tuberculous individuals.
  • Human beings perpetuate M. tuberculosis.


  • Multiplication occurs both intracellularly in macrophages and extracellularly.


  • Infection in dogs usually contracted from humans.
  • By aerosols or fomites - mainly from respiratory discharges from infected animals.

Pathological effects

  • The organism gains access to the body, usually via the respiratory tract, and avoids initial killing by host phagocytes.
  • The subsequent lesions produced are in part due to the cell-mediated immune response which is generated after the infection has become established.
  • The virulence of the organism is due to the lipids of the cell wall which protect the bacilli from phagocytosis.
  • Initially, the organism proliferates and lymphatic spread may occur at this stage. Acute or subacute inflammation occurs with polymorphonuclear infiltration.
  • After delayed hypersensitivity develops, granulomatous inflammation supervenes and the macrophages become elongated and are concentrically arranged to form a tubercle.
  • Granulomata usually respiratory, gastrointestinal or in regional lymph nodes.
  • Outside these epitheliod cells a fibrous layer builds up and caseous necrosis occurs at the center of the lesion.
  • Liquefaction of the caseous lesion occurs and a cavity develops in which further proliferation of the organism takes place.
  • Further spread may occur via the erosion of bronchi or viscera to new areas or via the bloodstream.
  • Systemic illness usually only occurs if host immunoppressed.


Control via animal

  • Antituberculosis chemotherapy of animals is discouraged due to the risk of zoonotic infection. In countries with eradication programs, it may be illegal to treat affected animals.

Control via chemotherapies

  • First-line drugs for tuberculosis therapy are streptomycin Streptomycin, isoniazid, ethambutol, and rifampicin.
  • combinations of drugs are usually used because resistance often develops under a single-drug regime.
  • Long-term therapy is required to effect a cure and eliminate the organism (9-24 months).
  • Short or incomplete courses of therapy are an important cause of the development of resistant M. tuberculosis.
  • Prophylactic treatment with isoniazid may be considered for pets exposed to tuberculosis.


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Further Reading


Refereed papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Arvand M, Mielke M E, Weinke T et al (1998) Primary isolation of Mycobacterium tuberculosis on blood agar during the diagnostic process for cat scratch disease. Infection 26 (4), 254 PubMed.
  • Gunn-Moore D A & Shaw S (1997) Mycobacterial disease in the cat. In Practice 19 (9), 493-499, 501 VetMedResource.
  • Hughes M S, Ball N W, Beck L A et al (1997) Determination of the etiology of presumptive feline leprosy by 16S rRNA gene analysis. J Clin Microbiol 35 (10), 2464-2471 PubMed.
  • Aranaz A, Liébana E, Pickering X et al (1996) Use of polymerase chain reaction in the diagnosis of tuberculosis in dogs and cats. Vet Rec 138 (12), 276-280 PubMed.
  • Gunn-Moore D A, Jenkins P A & Lucke V M (1996) Feline tuberculosis: a literature review and discussion of 19 cases caused by an unusual mycobacterial variant. Vet Rec 138 (3), 53-58 PubMed.
  • Hart C A, Beeching N J & Duerden B I (1996) Tuberculosis into the next century. Proceedings of a symposium held on 4 February 1995 at the Liverpool School of Medicine.​ J Med Microbiol 44 (1), 1-34 PubMed.

Other sources of information

  • Jordan H L (1995) Canine and feline mycobacterial infections. In: Current Veterinary Therapy XII, Eds Bonagura J D and Kirk R W, Philadelphia: W B Saunders, pp 320-323.
  • Greene G E & Gunn-Moore D A Mycobacterial infections. In: Infectious diseases of the dog and cat. Ed Greene, Philadelphia: W B Saunders, pp 313-325.