Zoonotic TB survivor resolves to make her community TB-free

Shobha Shukla *

Timpiyian Leseni and Shobha Shukla
Timpiyian Leseni and Shobha Shukla

Dressed in a colourful attire, Timpiyian Leseni from the Maasai tribe of Africa, turned many heads at the first-ever "WHO Global Ministerial Conference on Ending TB in the Sustainable Development Era: A Multisectoral Response" which was held in Moscow in November 2017. Looking at her, it was impossible to guess that here was a zoonotic extra-pulmonary TB (EPTB) survivor. Here is her inspiring story based upon an exclusive interview Timpiyian gave to Shobha Shukla, Managing Editor of CNS (Citizen News Service):

Timpiyian, the 3rd of 5 siblings (four sisters and one brother), lives in Kajiado county, bordering Nairobi in Kenya. In 2011, when she was 36 and married, she suddenly showed symptoms of weight loss, fatigue, sweating at night, loss of appetite and a swollen stomach. Even the smell of food became nauseating and she would vomit whatever she ate. At first she thought that she was pregnant, but that was not the case. The doctors put her on antibiotic injections, but they made her no better. Her weight came down to 36 kg and she could barely walk. A whole body scan revealed pus in her upper abdomen. The doctors drained out the pus and assured her that another dose of antibiotics would make her fit and fine in two weeks time.

But despite the medication, Timpiyian's condition worsened. She started vomiting again. Her debilitating illness had made her look like a skeleton - all skin and bones. One night, the pain in her abdomen became so unbearable that she wanted to die to put an end to all her sufferings. But on her mother's insistence, she was once again in the hospital.

This time the scan revealed that there was more pus everywhere inside her stomach and so a major operation was planned for the next morning to remove it. That night Timpiyian committed herself to God, wanting to be dead rather than have such a painful existence. She thought she would not survive the 6 hour long operation. But survive she did!

An examination of the pus eventually confirmed TB of the intestines.

"Till now I had only heard about TB of the lungs. I became curious to know more about this TB that had infected my intestines, and also how I had got it".

The doctor explained that she had zoonotic extra-pulmonary TB (EPTB), which is contracted from animals or animal products infected with TB. He said that if one drinks unpasteurised milk, or animal blood, or eats raw or partially cooked meat, then one can get this type of TB. Timpiyian realised that, like most of her tribe members, blood and raw meat of the slaughtered goats had been part of her staple diet.

She was now put on anti-TB treatment - a course of injections for 1 month and oral medicines for 7 months - along with a protein rich diet. After two weeks in the hospital she was finally discharged to go home. But she found it very tough to continue with her medication, due to the severe side effects of the medicines. She lost her appetite and would vomit whatever she ate - at times even the pills. And then she would have to them again. Her right kidney got affected too. But she was determined to complete her treatment.

Helping others to win the fight against TB

"I gradually limped back to normal and was finally cured of my TB. By now I had realized the seriousness of the issue. Maasai tribe had been eating raw meat and drinking blood from cattle for centuries. I wanted to educate my people on how to prevent and fight TB. Though I was still very weak, I offered my services to hospitals to help other TB patients. They asked me to help with 'lost to follow up' TB patients, who had stopped coming to the clinic to take their medicines. Every morning I would do the rounds of my county, tracing these missing patients. After a lot of persuasion and hard work I could actually get all of them back on TB treatment. By sharing my personal experiences I was able to convince others that whatever challenges life throws in our way we have to accept them with a positive attitude and overcome them".

Timpiyian has since become a full fledged TB advocate. She runs an organisation called Talako, which in Maasai language means 'set them free'. She wants to set her tribe free from TB.

"In my home town of Kajiado, we have started conversations around TB. I inform my community about TB and the risks of getting it from infected animals, as well as from air. Wherever there is a gathering we make sure to be there to talk about TB, even if it just for 5 minutes. We have also trained about 100 TB survivors to come out of their shame of TB and help others."

While Timpiyian agrees that it might be difficult to transform the age old food habits of her tribe overnight, at least they must know the symptoms of TB and also that it is treatable.

"I call upon everyone to spread awareness and knowledge about this disease in the communities. I also request my government to ensure that not only treatment but X-Ray screening for TB is also made free (while TB treatment is free in Kenya, X-Ray screening is not). I have come across many presumptive TB patients who were referred to the X-Ray department, when their sputum tested negative. But many of them did not get an X-Ray done for want of money. When X-Ray was done at my insistence, it turned out to be TB. It is sad that people with all the symptoms of TB are not getting diagnosed as they do not have the money for X-Ray".

Timpiyian insists that people need to be educated more about TB. They must know that it is a disease, and not a divine curse, and that it is curable provided one gets proper medical treatment.

Gender inequalities impact TB

"In my community (and perhaps elsewhere too), a woman has to seek permission from her husband if she wants to go to a doctor. It is very likely that the husband might not agree and instead take her to a traditional healer. In my tribe, when you get sick, they slaughter a goat and ask you to take its soup to bounce back. But one cannot get cured of TB (or any other disease) simply by eating goat soup".

Timpiyian stresses upon the importance of community health workers. TB treatment is not just about getting medicines from the doctor. One also needs regular support to complete the long and toxic treatment, and therein lies the role of the community. Without family/ community support many people might not be able to complete treatment. Committed community health workers can help a lot in this. They should be part of the government system and get paid for their services.

Together we can end TB, she reasserts.

Notes: 1) Zoonotic TB is a form of TB in people caused by Mycobacterium bovis. While the most common route of transmission of M. bovis to humans is through food (untreated dairy or meat products), airborne transmission also poses a risk to people in contact with infected animals or animal products.

2) In India (and perhaps Nepal) too, the ritual of eating meat and drinking blood of the sacrificed animal is prevalent in some regions. There is need to focus more on investigation of zoonotic TB cases.

* Shobha Shukla wrote this article for
Shobha Shukla is the Managing Editor of CNS (Citizen News Service) and has written consistently on health and gender justice for several years. Follow her on Twitter @Shobha1Shukla or visit
This article was webcasted on March 20 , 2018.

* Comments posted by users in this discussion thread and other parts of this site are opinions of the individuals posting them (whose user ID is displayed alongside) and not the views of We strongly recommend that users exercise responsibility, sensitivity and caution over language while writing your opinions which will be seen and read by other users. Please read a complete Guideline on using comments on this website.

  • 123rd Lamyanba Irabot #3 : Gallery
  • May all the roads lead to Ukhrul ..
  • AMAND Cultural @Pune #2 : Gallery
  • Naga Flag & Constitution is our Identity
  • Global Handwashing Day
  • Gwangju Prize for Human Rights: Nominate
  • German program for women entrepreneurs
  • Raising the integration bogey, again
  • October 15 and the GoI
  • NTC calls for solution within scheduled time
  • Naga peace talks deadlocked
  • Pot Lannaba : Houchongba #1: Gallery
  • IM & Govt against freedom fighters
  • Wijaidin Pamai @Intl Fashion Week Goa
  • SheChef Season 2, Shirui Lily Festival 2019
  • Crazy for the hole :: Poem
  • Intl Classical Manipuri Dance Festival
  • Putting a check on single use plastic
  • Harvesting the green gold
  • Mera Houchongba @Kangla #1: Gallery
  • Mera Houchongba festival
  • Intl Day for Disaster Risk Reduction
  • Understanding JAM for bright career
  • For you, I gave up everything : Poem
  • Paranoia of Beauty: A Corporate Brainwash
  • Naga Peace Process :: News Timeline
  • Opening NE to outside world: Challenges ..
  • Contested Identity Along Myanmar Border
  • NNPGs mandated for solution: Isak
  • Wont walk path of capitulated peace: IM
  • 3-month deadline ..unacceptable: Hoho
  • Manipur Street in Manchester & Shirui Lily
  • A glimpse of Shirui Flower : Gallery
  • World within a World
  • Face of RaDiant Group
  • For the Common People :: Poem
  • Heart Camp at Senapati District Hospital
  • NDPP is 'verba non facta' : NPF
  • Swindling of Public Money
  • Bor khoiramba @Hiyangthang #2 : Gallery
  • Lansinganglu, Ahinglang : eMing
  • World Tourism Day @Noney #3 : Gallery
  • World Mental Health Awareness Week 2019
  • Manipur lost legacy- Merger Agreement #2
  • My aquamarine :: Poem
  • Rice for beauty
  • Stand off over flag and constitution
  • Suicide - Western docs, Psychologists...
  • Naga wont accept alien doc. as constitution
  • Manipuri Calendar 2020 :: Download
  • AMAND Cultural @Pune #1 : Gallery
  • Inner Line Permit (ILP) Demand : Timeline
  • NE Message of Cleaninness at Delhi
  • Research Support Officer @ Amethyst
  • 8th AGM/Annual Cultural of AMAND, Pune
  • Peace & conflicts studies as a career
  • College student leaders learn leadership
  • Reaffirming stand of 2016 unity
  • Mr. Chief Minister, clean the dirt...
  • Nongdol Leima @ JNMDA #2 : Gallery
  • Haloi Taret: Dangerous Beauty....
  • Difficult days ahead for Muivah
  • Manipur from Independence to Merger #3
  • World Mental Health Day, 2019
  • Traditional DJ
  • Cry of a Dying River - 96 :: Poem
  • ..district to State level : Shirui Lily Festival
  • Something is still not right
  • Chothe Achui Lin festival #2
  • Heritage Park @Sangai Fest #3: Gallery
  • Are we being bullied with same fake news?
  • Hard facts about the betrail
  • World Animal Day 2019
  • Academic Entrepreneurship at MU #2
  • Nagas of Nagaland : Drawing the divide
  • ... Manipur needs strategic change
  • World Tourism Day @Noney #2 : Gallery
  • ST status is to save indigenous community
  • Sangai festival and tourism multiplier
  • Governance, Gender & Environment :: Book
  • Now Your Hair :: Poem
  • Neiphiu Rio's myopic belief on ILP : NPF
  • Probe into maladministration of hospital
  • Taking high moral stand: Begone moral cop
  • Bor khoiramba @Hiyangthang #1 : Gallery
  • Manipur lost legacy- Merger Agreement #1
  • Sikkim Dance @Sangai Fest: Gallery
  • World Habitat Day: A celebration for home
  • For Your Eyes Only :: Poem
  • No School bag day in Manipur
  • Making ban on single use plastic effective
  • New CAB clause to protect NE : HM
  • NNPGs ready to conclude talks: Kitovi
  • 123rd Lamyanba Irabot #2 : Gallery
  • Ngangom Chaoba : Natyabhusan
  • Ganja economics, Jai Bholenath !
  • Soul Sister :: Poem
  • Leap of faith on wings of Prayer
  • Counselling: Children in Conflict with Law
  • Caution for the cocksure
  • CAB Protest @Khwairamband : Gallery
  • Manipuri Women & Crime Against them
  • Toward exploring a better future for youth
  • I happily cry :: Poem
  • NE Students' Culturals at Pondicherry
  • Beauty benefits of banana
  • Heart Camp at District Hospital, Chandel
  • Contained but final word yet to be said
  • Smart idea, bumbling idealists
  • Chingda Satpi Engellei #2 :: eRang
  • Facts & Opinions: Integration of Naga Area
  • Licypriya : Earth Day Network 'Rising Star'
  • Cry of a Dying River - 95 :: Poem
  • Khangminashi - V at Ibotonsana Hr Sec
  • Academic Entrepreneurship at MU #1
  • Vote BJP but protest: CAB Indecisive stand
  • Significance of Manipuri proverbs
  • Hathei Phanit (Chilli) #2: Gallery
  • Naga insurgency & peace condition #2
  • World River Day, 2019
  • Half Brother :: Poem
  • Youth Essay Contest: May 18 Memorial
  • Michelle Salam : Top Ten Cake Masters
  • Internal tussle within the Government
  • The humility of MK Gandhi & Manipur
  • Bhagyachandra Death Anniv @WB : Gallery
  • Why dont Manipur forget Merger Agreement
  • Let us celebrate Non Violence Day
  • Looking Forward to a Sexy Evening : Poem
  • Observance of Senior Citizen's Day
  • Turmeric in beauty care
  • Artists for NH7 Weekender, Meghalaya
  • Parking madness at commercial centres
  • Demise of a dream
  • 123rd Lamyanba Irabot #1 : Gallery
  • International Day Of Older Persons, 1 Oct
  • Licypriya : India Peace Prize : Gallery
  • Irabot the poet of the working class
  • October Calendar for Year 2019 : Tools
  • Licypriya Kangujam : India Peace Prize 2019
  • ST status demand for Meiteis widening rift
  • Certificate Course on Neuropsychology
  • Lining up stand against CAB
  • Remembering Lamyanba & his politics
  • Irabot Day & the practice of volunteerism
  • Lamyanba Hijam Irawat :: Read articles
  • Around India in 60 days
  • Nungleiband Massacre: Diary of Editor
  • Judo: Rishikanta, Roshibina, Kalpana
  • Heart of an empowering woman : Poem
  • Imphal Peace Museum: Best Design Award
  • Engaging with the young minds
  • Lai Khutsangbi & female power
  • Naga liberty or forced disintegration..
  • Irabot's letter to Assembly: 18 Oct 1948
  • Monika Ingudam: Natl Youth Icon Award
  • Heart Camp at District Hospital, Ukhrul
  • Swacchata Hi Seva at Lakoipat
  • Let 'tree' that was cut, be the last
  • World Tourism Day @Noney #1 : Gallery
  • Where All The Flowers Gone? #2: Gallery
  • The resurgence of Hijam Irabot
  • Naga insurgency & peace condition #1
  • World Heart Day 2019
  • Judo: L Sushila; M Bidyashori, T Inunganbi
  • The Killing Fields 2013-18 : News Timeline
  • Counselling: Children in Conflict with Law
  • Looking to increase revenue collection
  • Adapting with the changing time
  • Inamma - Film Scenes #1 :: eRang
  • Heritage Park @Sangai Fest #2: Gallery
  • Cry of a Dying River - 94 :: Poem
  • Reject false solutions to climate crisis
  • Career in Mass Communication
  • Ideals of Lamyanba Irawat
  • Laurels for Th Brinda, Ng Touthang
  • Performances to watch at NH7 Weekender
  • Protest in NE against CAB starting Oct 3
  • Bamboo bus shelter model developed
  • Noney to host World Tourism Day
  • Drought and the drainage issues
  • Marangwon @Kangkhui Khullen: Gallery
  • The flavor of Utsav Tarpon
  • Urgent Need to Reconsider Naga History
  • A woman :: Poem
  • Human Papilloma Virus & women's health
  • Meeting the Enemy at Nathu La
  • 'Outburst' of Thuingaleng Muivah
  • Concerns for media persons
  • Ibudhou Thangjing Haraoba #5 : Gallery
  • Licypriya Climate March @Angola :Gallery
  • Featured Front Page Photo 2019 #4: Gallery
  • Licypriya Climate March at Luanda :: Report
  • Workshop on Science Writing
  • Nurabi, nominated at Rio WebFest
  • Manipur retain Senior Women's NFC title
  • Robert Naorem : Best Intl Fashion Designer
  • Process of updating electoral roll
  • Ban on plastic use
  • Kartal Cholom @ Sangai Fest : Gallery
  • Reflection on Tolstoy, Irawat & Dr. Kamal
  • Local solution, local action for #GlobalGoals
  • In You I Find My Sunset :: Poem
  • ... denying rights in actual practice
  • Landslide: Are Mitigation measures effective
  • Emotional Intelligence: Yardstick for life skill
  • eNabling North East Award 2019
  • The debate over legalising ganja
  • The new MVA; how serious is the govt ?
  • Chothe Achui Lin festival #1
  • Lady E-Rickshaw driver inspires women..
  • M Shanker: Indian Achievers Award 2019
  • Softly Coo the Wild Pigeons :: Poem
  • Discussion on Manipur Merger Agreement
  • Irabot, one & only leader of oppressed mass
  • Start-up Manipur as a potential launch pad
  • Culture Students Foundation Day : Gallery
  • Eyek Tamba :: Learn Manipuri script
  • Territorial Integration, Flag or Constitution
  • Book published on Irabot Day: Download
  • In love with the night :: Poem
  • Maverick mind of Ram - Dedicated to Bar
  • Smoking- silent killer for your backbone
  • Revisiting Sept. 21 (1948 & 1949)
  • Where All The Flowers Gone? #1: Gallery
  • BCIM Corridor & China New Transportation
  • Alzheimer's Awareness Month
  • Cry of a Dying River - 93 :: Poem
  • Rally & Youth's Voice on Climate Change
  • Guwahati to Bangkok : Direct Flight
  • Stringent traffic rules in place
  • Time for immediate solution to climate crisis
  • Traditional Dress of Hmar : Gallery
  • Licypriya @UNESCO Forum, Angola: Gallery
  • World Ozone Day and Langban Tarpan
  • Protection of Land in Tamenglong: Meeting
  • Licypriya Kangujam at UNESCO : Report
  • 46th AMWJU Foundation Day : Gallery
  • Heikru Hidongba #2 : Gallery
  • 48th Foundation Day of RIMS : Gallery
  • Chaklam Khongchat Numit #4: Gallery
  • Mukna - indigenous game : Gallery
  • Hiyang Tanaba @Lamlai #1: Gallery
  • Babysana's last rites performed: Gallery
  • Tolloi, Ukhrul :: 360 Panorama View
  • Manipuri Calendar for 2019 : Download