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Professional Version

Tuberculosis in Elephants

By

Nuno Santos

, PhD, CIBIO-InBIO, University of Porto

Reviewed/Revised Mar 2023 | Modified Jun 2023

Tuberculosis due to Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Mycobacterium bovis, or Mycobacterium caprae has been reported in captive and wild elephants. Lesions most often involve the lung and associated lymph nodes. The gold-standard diagnostic assay is an organism-based test of trunk washes. Nonspecific responses are observed on tuberculin skin tests; however, immunologic assays developed specifically for elephants are used.

Multidrug regimens that include isoniazid and rifampin have been developed that eliminate the shedding of M tuberculosis and minimize the development of drug-resistant strains. Historically, elephants with multidrug-resistant infections have been euthanized, because of public health concerns.

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