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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Mycobacterial Infection in Captive Elephants

Authors
item Payeur, J - USDA, APHIS
item Jarnigan, J - USDA, APHIS
item Marquardt, J - USDA, APHIS
item Whipple, Diana

Submitted to: International Workshop on Tuberculosis in Animals
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: September 15, 1999
Publication Date: N/A

Technical Abstract: Between 1994 and 1999, Mycobacterium tuberculosis (M. tb) was isolated from 12 captive elephants from different parts of the U.S. In November 1997, new guidelines were implemented by USDA in response to an outbreak of tuberculosis (TB) at a facility in IL where 1 elephant died in 1994 and 2 elephants died in 1996. In October 1996, M. tb was isolated from a fourth living elephant. Eleven of 22 animal handlers that were screened for TB by skin testing reacted to PPD. Mycobacterium tuberculosis was isolated from 1 animal handler that developed active TB. Results of DNA fingerprinting of the isolates from the 4 elephants and the handler showed that they were infected with the same strain of M. tb. This event resulted in increased testing of all captive elephants that were owned by licensed exhibitors in the U.S. Over 2,000 trunk washes or swabs were submitted to the USDA/APHIS/NVSL, Ames, IA, from 1997 to present. The most common mycobacterial species other than M. tb that were isolated were M. avium, M. terrae, M. gordonae, M. scrofulaceum, M. ulcerans, M. fortuitum, M. gastri, M. chitae, M. phlei, and M. xenopi. DNA fingerprinting has identified 5 different strains of M. tb from elephants located throughout the U.S. Results of nucleic acid amplification tests were positive for 2 elephants where M. tb was isolated and 14 elephants where mycobacteria were not isolated. USDA regulations require annual sampling and testing of all captive elephants owned by licensed exhibitors in an effort to prevent future outbreaks of TB like the one which occurred in IL.

Last Modified: 10/24/2014
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