A study on clinical diagnosis of tuberculosis in free ranging and captive wild animals of India

Document Type : Short paper


1 Ph.D. Student in Pathology, Division of Pathology, ICAR-Indian Veterinary Research Institute, Izatnagar-243122, Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh, India

2 Centre for Wildlife Conservation, Management and Disease Surveillance, ICAR-Indian Veterinary Research Institute, Izatnagar-243122, Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh, India

3 Division of Pathology, ICAR-Indian Veterinary Research Institute, Izatnagar-243122, Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh, India

4 MSc in Microbiology, Agra Bear Rescue Centre, Wildlife SOS, Keetham-281122, Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India

5 MVSc in Surgery and Radiology, Nahargarh Biological Park, Kukas-302028, Rajasthan, India


Background: Tuberculosis (TB) is a disease of paramount importance at the wildlife-livestock-human interface. Aims: To study the occurrence and Mycobacterium (M) species involved in the TB of free-ranging and captive wild animals in various Indian states. Methods: A total of 396 clinical samples from 207 different wild animal species from various Indian national parks, zoological gardens, etc., were analyzed by lateral flow assay (LFA), Ziehl-Neelsen (ZN) staining, and PCR. Clinical samples include blood (n=156), faecal swabs (n=103), serum (n=73), and nasal swabs or trunk wash fluids (n=64). Results: Clinical signs of TB were absent in 202 animals, although 21 wild animals were seropositive for pathogenic Mycobacterium antigens by LFA. Clinical signs like progressive weight loss, and respiratory distress were exhibited by 4 sloth bears (Melursus ursinus) and an elephant (Elephas maximus), which were also found positive for LFA, PCR, and ZN staining. ZN staining showed positivity for acid-fast bacilli (AFB) in 9 (8.74%) faecal and 9 (14.06%) nasal swabs or trunk wash fluids of sloth bears (7 samples) and elephants (2 samples). M. tuberculosis was detected in 7 sloth bears and 2 elephants, whereas M. bovis was found in a spotted deer (Axis axis) by species-specific PCR. Conclusion: The circulation of TB organisms in wild animals warrants a strict surveillance programme to identify the carrier status of these animals so that effective TB control strategies can be formulated.


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