Vet has an­i­mal tu­ber­cu­lo­sis scare

Malta Independent - - HEALTH -

“If this is it, what am I go­ing to do with my re­main­ing few months?” won­dered vet Jonathan Cranston while ly­ing in a hospi­tal bed.

He’s one of more than 100,000 peo­ple who catch tu­ber­cu­lo­sis from an­i­mals each year - an is­sue the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion says has been ig­nored for decades.

The bru­tal in­fec­tion led to him los­ing nearly 7.5kg in weight as it set­tled in his chest.

Jonathan was test­ing stress lev­els in wilde­beest near Kruger Na­tional Park in South Africa in 2013 when he thinks he was in­fected.

“Six weeks later [back in the UK] I re­mem­ber wak­ing up in the mid­dle of the night and strug­gling for breath with acute chest pain, then I had hor­ren­dous night sweats lit­er­ally my py­ja­mas and bed were drenched.

“As a vet, look­ing back in hind­sight, I should have re­alised what was hap­pen­ing, but I’d just got a new mat­tress and I thought ‘this isn’t breath­ing’.”

He de­scribed him­self as fairly fit be­fore the bac­te­rial in­fec­tion, but even walk­ing the dog up a short hill be­came a strug­gle.

He was given a course of an­tibi­otics after a GP said he prob­a­bly had pneu­mo­nia.

Yet Jonathan de­vel­oped a re­ally bad fever and one morn­ing while swim­ming he could man­age only two lengths be­fore strug­gling and having to drag him­self out of the pool.

At a hospi­tal ap­point­ment for an ul­tra­sound, doc­tors re­fused to let him leave.

“My right lung was vir­tu­ally non-ex­is­tent - they drained 2.5 litres of fluid from my right pleu­ral space [the area around the lungs],” Jonathan said.

He added: “I knew there was some­thing se­ri­ous go­ing on and I started to plan my last few months.

“I started putting to­gether places I wanted to go, I love trav­el­ling to see an­i­mals.

“I was 32 at the time, I’d had a pretty fun life and was hop­ing it was go­ing to be longer!”

While he was in hospi­tal he en­coun­tered one of the great chal­lenges with an­i­mal TB - it is of­ten con­fused with human TB.

De­spite the symp­toms look­ing sim­i­lar, the diseases are caused by dif­fer­ent bac­te­ria. An­i­mal TB is caused by My­cobac­terium bo­vis while human TB is caused by My­cobac­terium tu­ber­cu­lo­sis.

The Chel­tenham-based vet added: “I was pretty con­vinced it was an­i­mal TB, but the con­sul­tant said he was not con­vinced - it was three months later that they re­alised it was bovine TB.

“With all due re­spect they didn’t have a clue about it and they didn’t re­ally know what to do with me. They just went through the stan­dard pro­to­col for TB.”

An­i­mal or zoonotic TB can be more se­ri­ous and harder to treat than con­ven­tional, human tu­ber­cu­lo­sis.

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