Sero-diagnosis of tuberculosis in elephants in Maharashtra, India

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Utkarsh Rajhans
Gayatri Wankhede
Balaji Ambore
Sandeep Chaudhari
Navnath Nighot
Vitthal Dhaygude
Chhaya Sonekar


Tuberculosis is a highly contagious zoonotic disease caused by Mycobacterium spp.  A study was conducted to detect the presence of Mycobacterium in captive elephants.  A total of 15 captive elephants were screened from various regions in Maharashtra.  The blood and serum samples collected were subjected to rapid test kit, BacT/ALERT 3D system, Ziehl-Neelsen (ZN) staining and PCR.  All the samples were found seronegative using rapid test kit and whole blood PCR.  Whereas, all samples were signalled culture positive in BacT/ALERT 3D system which were further subjected to PCR, only one amplicon was produced of 176bp of RD4 gene (Mycobacterium bovis) and no acid-fast organism was detected upon ZN.  Due to the atypical nature of this organism, diagnosis of this disease in elephants using various tests is complicated unlike the diagnostic tests that are validated in domestic animals.  Therefore, many tests have sub-optimal sensitivity and specificity in elephants.  As TB is a zoonotic disease, transmission can occur between human-livestock-elephants interface.  Therefore, the zoos and state forest authority should inculcate a protocol of periodic TB screening for Mahouts and elephants in captivity along with protocol of elephant-visitor interaction, thus helping in conservation of this endangered species in India.

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