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SOS Rhino : Research, Projects and Grants : Grants 2000 : Tuberculosis Diagnosis


“A Pilot Study for the Optimization and Validation of the Antigen 85 Immunoassay for Diagnosing Tuberculosis in Captive and Free-ranging Rhino"



Dr. Michael Ziccardi


University of California at Davis
Davis, CA


Tuberculosis caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis or M. bovis have long been known to cause significant morbidity and mortality in domestic and exotic animals. Disease prevalence estimation in these populations, however, has been hampered by diagnostic test methods which are oftentimes difficult or impossible to conduct and may not have been validated, optimized or standardized in the species of interest.

One group of animals that have been documented to be at significant risk to this disease in zoological institutions is members of the Rhinocerotidae family. Due to the problems previously noted, as well as difficulties associated with immobilization and skin testing of these animals, true prevalence estimations of disease and routine testing of these species is not yet known or done.

Recently, researchers working with human tuberculosis have developed an immunoassay directed towards the detection of a serum protein complex (the antigen 85 complex) produced in the early stages of mycobacterial infections.

Were this method modified and optimized for use in wildlife species, it would be of great benefit for the diagnosis of this threat in both captive and free-ranging populations, as well as assist in the management and movement practices that exist in zoological collections. Therefore, the primary aims of this study are to:

1) optimize the immunoassay for use in exotic hoofstock species

2) validate the immunoassay for the detection of tuberculosis in rhino through analysis of samples from"known" positive and negative animals

3) correlate the results of the immunoassay with data usingother tuberculosis diagnostic methods

4) screen selected serum samples from several captive and free-ranging rhino populations where current tuberculosis exposure and prevalence information is unknown but of high population and/or human import.


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