Epidemiology and diagnosis of Mycobacterium tuberculosis in captive Asian elephants (Elephas maximus)

J Zoo Wildl Med. 2001 Mar;32(1):1-16. doi: 10.1638/1042-7260(2001)032[0001:EADOMT]2.0.CO;2.


The deaths of two Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) in August 1996 led the United States Department of Agriculture to require the testing and treatment of elephants for tuberculosis. From August 1996 to September 1999. Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection was confirmed by culture in 12 of 118 elephants in six herds. Eight diagnoses were made antemortem on the basis of isolation of M. tuberculosis by culture of trunk wash samples; the remainder (including the initial two) were diagnosed postmortem. We present the case histories, epidemiologic characteristics, diagnostic test results, and therapeutic plans from these six herds. The intradermal tuberculin test, enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay serology, the blood tuberculosis test, and nucleic acid amplification and culture are compared as methods to diagnose M. tuberculosis infection in elephants.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Wild
  • Antibodies, Bacterial / blood
  • Elephants*
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay / veterinary
  • Female
  • Male
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / genetics
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / immunology
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / isolation & purification*
  • Nasal Mucosa / microbiology
  • Nucleic Acid Amplification Techniques / veterinary
  • Tuberculin Test / veterinary
  • Tuberculosis / diagnosis
  • Tuberculosis / epidemiology
  • Tuberculosis / veterinary*
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Antibodies, Bacterial