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.