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Mycobacterium bovis is felt to be primarily a zoonotic disease occasionally transmitted to humans who are immunocompromised and either have contact with cattle or consume unpasteurised dairy products. An epidemiological investigation using DNA fingerprinting and surveillance data from the UK Mycobacterial Surveillance Network and the Veterinary Laboratories Agency identified a cluster of six people infected with M bovis in the West Midlands between 2004 and 2006. Five of the subjects’ disease manifested as pulmonary disease and one died of M bovis meningitis. The demographics of the infected cluster were unusual for M bovis infection because 1) all subjects were young and UK born; 2) only one of the six had consumed unpasteurised dairy products; 3) two of the six subjects were immunocompetent; and 4) the subjects were linked by social networks in a local bar and a city centre nightclub. All isolates were pyrazinamide resistant, which is typical of M bovis.
This study describes a cluster of cases of M bovis in a setting more commonly associated with M tuberculosis, suggesting human-to-human transmission.