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Developing a Tool to Detect Tuberculosis in Lions

Lions are a top predator in the African ecosystem, where they remove weak and diseased animals and help maintain herd health. Unfortunately, when lions eat infected Cape buffalo and other infected species, they can contract diseases, such as bovine tuberculosis (BTB), and transmit them to other lions. infected lions develop lung and bone lesions, become emaciated and die. Cub survival in infected prides is also low. Understanding BTB transmission between lions and identifying infected animals before clinical signs develop are crucial to developing disease management strategies. This study will investigate the use of a blood-based field test to detect antibodies indicating BTB infection in lions, examine the test’s ability to detect infection at different stages of disease and assess its use as a tool for ongoing disease surveillance. Keeping lions healthy will help maintain the predator–prey balance that affects the entire ecosystem.

Dr. Michele A. Miller, Palm Beach Zoo