The aim of this study was to estimate the incidence of mycobacterial infections in cats in Great Britain (GB). This was performed using the proxy measure of feline tissue samples submitted to diagnostic laboratories in GB that were found to have histopathological changes typical of mycobacterial infection ('MYC'). Sixteen primary diagnostic laboratories were asked for information on the number of feline samples submitted in 2009, the number with MYC, the number undergoing Ziehl-Neelsen (ZN) staining and, for comparison, the number diagnosed with lymphoma. Eight laboratories provided full data for the whole year: 11 782 samples; lymphoma 3.2% (mean, 95% CI: 2.89, 3.5), MYC 1.16% (0.98; 1.37) and ZN-positive 0.31% (0.22; 0.43). Data on 1569 samples from seven laboratories that provided partial data on samples for the whole year revealed similar results, although all changes were more frequent: lymphoma 5.42% (4.35; 6.66), MYC 2.36% (1.66; 3.23) and ZN-positive 0.77% (0.40; 1.33). One laboratory only provided data for part of the year (4.5 months), reporting all three types of histopathology less frequently: 18 232 samples; lymphoma 0.2% (0.18; 0.32), MYC 0.07% (0.04; 0.12) and ZN-positive 0.05% (0.02; 0.09). The reasons for low reporting rates in this high-throughput laboratory are unclear. In total, 187 samples were reported as having MYC. Five Reference laboratories were also contacted, reporting 174 feline tissue submissions in 2009, with mycobacteria being cultured from 90. The study shows that MYC are frequently reported in tissue samples from cats in GB, being reported in ∼1% of samples, with confirmation as ZN-positive in ∼0.3%. Lymphoma is recognized as a common disease in cats, being seen in ∼3% of samples in this study. When compared against MYC, lymphoma was reported only twice as frequently. This confirms that far from being rare, clinically significant mycobacterial infections occur commonly in cats in GB.
- Feline mycobacterial infection