Tuberculosis at the human-animal interface: an emerging disease of elephants

Tuberculosis (Edinb). 2011 May;91(3):208-11. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2011 Mar 11.


Over the past 15 years, cases of infection with organisms of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex have been diagnosed among captive elephants in the United States and worldwide. Outbreak investigations have documented that among staff employed at facilities housing infected animals, skin test conversion to purified protein derivative have been documented. Clonal spread among animals in close contact and even inter-species spread between elephant and human has been documented. Detection of actively infected animals relies on samples obtained by trunk wash. Diagnosis has been augmented by the development of a multi-antigen serologic assay with excellent specificity and sensitivity. Treatment regimens are still in development with efficacy largely unknown due to a paucity of both premortem follow-up and necropsy data of treated animals. The epidemiology, diagnosis and treatment of tuberculosis in elephants require additional careful study of clinical data.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Disease Outbreaks
  • Elephants
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions*
  • Humans
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / isolation & purification
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / pathogenicity*
  • Reagent Kits, Diagnostic / veterinary
  • Tuberculosis / diagnosis
  • Tuberculosis / transmission
  • Tuberculosis / veterinary*
  • Zoonoses / microbiology


  • Reagent Kits, Diagnostic