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Mycobacterium bovis diagnosis in Rhinoceros

Updated: Jun 29, 2021

by Josephine Chileshe, PhD student

Division of Molecular Biology and Human Genetics, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, PO Box 241, Cape Town 8000, South Africa.

in: WDA-AME Newsletter 2021, vol5, Issue 1

White rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum) are classified as “Near Threatened” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). They are an important species with a great impact on conservation and economy in an African country such as South Africa.

The Kruger National Park, in South Africa, is home to the largest population of white rhinoceros in the world but unfortunately rhinoceros have been found to be infected with animal tuberculosis caused by Mycobacterium bovis.

As a regulated disease, animal tuberculosis results in quarantine and impacts conservation programs by restricting movement between parks. Hence, development of reliable tests for detection of infected animals is important to enable movement and minimize the risk of disease spread to other species.

Research shows that the combination of using the QuantiFERON®-TB Gold (QFT) blood collection tubes, after which the plasma is harvested following centrifugation and Mabtech equine IFN-γ ELISA is a promising diagnostic test to distinguish between of M. bovis-infected and uninfected white rhinoceros.

Based on the research of the Animal TB group and researchers from the University of Pretoria, South African National Parks developed a TB management plan that has been accepted by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. Under this plan, rhinoceros may be moved if they pass quarantine in a bio-secure facility with three negative tests over a three month period, using the blood-based interferon- gamma release assay. This demonstrates the contribution that wildlife TB research can have on policy development.

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