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Diversity of nontuberculous mycobacteria in food animals: implications for food safety and one health

G I Mensah(1) T K Tingan(2) T Koney(1) D Agbenyo(3) K K Addo(1)

1:Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research, University of Ghana, Legon/Accra, Ghana; 2:School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Ghana, Legon/Accra, Ghana; 3:Department of Animal Biology and Conservation Sciences, University of Ghana, Legon/Accra, Ghana

Beyond tuberculosis, leprosy and Buruli ulcer which are well known mycobacterial diseases of public health importance, lurks a myriad of infections caused by atypical mycobacteria commonly referred to as nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM). NTM are ubiquitous in the environment hence their capacity to cause infections in different hosts via contact, inhalation, or ingestion. In 2014, speciation of mycobacterial isolates from a human population-based nationwide TB prevalence survey in Ghana, revealed that more than 50% were NTM, with Mycobacterium fortuitum being the most frequent (21.4%), however published records on NTM infections in animals are still scarce. The objective of this study was to describe the diversity of NTM circulating in food animals in Ghana and the implications for food safety and one health. Overall, 75 NTM isolates were obtained from culture of tissues from 50 cattle, 118 chicken and 516 cultivated fish (catfish and Tilapia) collected between 2019- 2022. Using the Line Probe assay (GenoType Mycobacterium CM/AS), mycobacteria 16S rRNA gene amplification and sequencing, isolates belonged to 20 species were identified. M. fortuitum was the most abundant species (18/41, 43.9%) isolated from cattle showing tuberculous-like lesions. In fish, M. fortuitum was the most predominant species (12/33, 37%). In poultry only two isolates were recovered belonging to Mycobacterium mageritense. These findings suggest that a high diversity of NTM circulates among food producing animals with M. fortuitum being a dominant NTM across species.  Studies on transmission dynamics are required to unravel the zoonotic potential of NTM and intervention strategies using a one health approach.

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