Australian sea lion found with tuberculosis for first time, sparking fears of spread to humans

A wild Australian sea lion has been diagnosed with tuberculosis, for the first time.

Sea lion (file picture). Source: 1 NEWS

The discovery by Australian researchers has sparked concerns the disease, which was found in the mammal's abdomen, could transfer to humans.

"There is risk of transmission for researchers handling the animals, as well as anyone involved in animal rescue or washed-up carcass disposal, or those working at rehabilitation centres and involved in the disease diagnostic process," University of Sydney researcher Rachel Gray said today. 

In humans, tuberculosis typically affects the lungs.

The infected seal was a deceased three-year-old male found on a beach at Kangaroo Island in South Australia in 2017.

Tuberculosis was discovered in its intestines during an autopsy.

"This unusual finding means we need to maintain constant vigilance around zoonotic disease risk for any person in close contact with free-ranging pinnipeds (seals, sea lions and walruses) of juvenile age or older," Dr Gray, from the Sydney School of Veterinary Science, said.

The research was published in the Journal of Wildlife Diseases.