CONSERVATION CHALLENGES: THE LIMITATIONS OF ANTEMORTEM TUBERCULOSIS TESTING IN CAPTIVE ASIATIC LIONS (PANTHERA LEO PERSICA)

Molenaar, F M and Swift, B M C and Masters, N (2020) CONSERVATION CHALLENGES: THE LIMITATIONS OF ANTEMORTEM TUBERCULOSIS TESTING IN CAPTIVE ASIATIC LIONS (PANTHERA LEO PERSICA). Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine, 51 (2). pp. 426-432.

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Abstract

Genetic diversity of captive wild animals can be enhanced by moving those individuals with valuable genes between collections and through introduction of a new pair from a range country. This requires movement of animals, which is inherent with disease risks, such as the introduction of pathogenic Mycobacterium sp. (MTBC) into a zoological collection. Decisions need to be made based on the outcome of perimovement disease screening using an array of tests, the majority of which are unvalidated in the species. A pair of endangered Asiatic lions (Panthera leo persica) imported from India to the United Kingdom were screened for MTBC using the comparative intradermal tuberculosis (TB) test, the feline interferon-c blood test, and the experimental bacteriophage assay. Reactions on all three tests prompted screening of the three resident Asiatic lions using the same tests, all of which were negative for MTBC. Based on these test results, the decision had to be made to exclude the genetically valuable pair from the current collection. MTBC could not be identified using further tests, including culture and PCR on a bronchoalveolar lavage, on feces, or on postmortem tissues. This case series highlights the usefulness of a control group when interpreting unvalidated test results for detection of MTBC, the value of training big cats for conscious blood sampling, and the practical implications of placing the comparative intradermal TB test in the eyelids, when dealing with a species that requires a general anesthetic for most hands-on interventions.

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