Mycobacterium Avium Subspecies paratuberculosis: A Possible Causative Agent in Human Morbidity and Risk to Public Health Safety

Open Vet J. 2018;8(2):172-181. doi: 10.4314/ovj.v8i2.10. Epub 2018 May 19.


Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis is a bacterial parasite and the causative agent of paratuberculosis, a disease predominately found in cattle and sheep. Infection with this microorganism results in substantial farming economic losses and animal morbidity. The link between infection with this pathogen and human disease has been theorised for many years with Crohn's disease being one of many suspected resultant conditions. Mycobacterium avium may be spread from animal to human hosts by water and foodborne transmission routes, where the foodborne route of exposure represents a significant risk for susceptible populations, namely children and the immune-compromised. Following colonisation of the host, the parasitic organism evades the host immune system by use of molecular mimicry, displaying peptide sequences similar to that of the host cells causing a disruption of self-verses non self-recognition. Theoretically, this failure to recognise the invading organism as distinct from host cells may result in numerous autoimmune conditions. Here, the author presents current information assessing the link between numerous diseases states in humans such inflammatory bowel disease, Type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto\'s thyroiditis, multiple sclerosis and autism following infection with Mycobacterium avium paratuberculosis. The possibility of zoonotic transmission of the organism and its significant risk to public health safety as a consequence is also discussed.

Keywords: Auto-immune; Human morbidity; Mycobacterium paratuberculosis; Public health; Zoonotic.

Publication types

  • Review