Detection of antibodies to tuberculosis antigens in free-ranging lions (Panthera leo) infected with Mycobacterium bovis in Kruger National Park, South Africa
Bovine tuberculosis (TB), caused by Mycobacterium bovis, has become established in Kruger National Park, South Africa, in the cape buffalo (Syncerus caffer) population and in other species. TB in prey species has resulted in infection and morbidity in the resident lion (Panthera leo) prides. The only validated live animal test currently available for lions is the intradermal tuberculin test. Because this test requires capture twice, 72 hr apart, of free-ranging lions to read results, it is logistically difficult to administer in a large ecosystem. Therefore, development of a rapid animal-side screening assay would be ideal in providing information for wildlife managers, veterinarians, and researchers working with free-living lion prides. This study reports preliminary descriptive results from an ongoing project evaluating two serologic tests for M. bovis (ElephantTB Stat-Pak and dual path platform VetTB). Disease status was determined by postmortem culture and presence of pathologic lesions in 14 free-ranging lions. Seropositivity was found to be associated with M. bovis infection. Extended field studies are underway to validate these rapid animal-side immunoassays for antemortem screening tests for TB in lions. © 2012 American Association of Zoo Veterinarians.