A 20-yr-old male pygmy hippopotamus (Hexaprotodon liberiensis), weighing 250 kg, arrived at Zoological Society London Whipsnade Zoo (United Kingdom) from a captive collection in Portugal. A quarantine health check was performed including a comparative intradermal tuberculosis (IDTB) test. Assessment of the comparative IDTB test at 72 hr revealed a strong positive reaction at the bovine site. Serum was tested with a rapid immunochromatographic assay (TB STAT-PAK®) and was positive for tuberculosis antibodies. The tuberculosis tests were repeated 6 wk later with the same positive test outcome. In addition, a broncho-alveolar lavage (BAL) was submitted for mycobacterial culture. The positive IDTB test and TB STAT-PAK® results were supported by multiantigen print immunoassay (MAPIA). Based on these results, the animal was suspected to be infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex organisms and was euthanized. No gross or histologic signs of tuberculosis were found at postmortem examination. Mycobacterium interjectum was cultured from the BAL but not from necropsy samples. The antigens used in the TB STAT-PAK® and MAPIA tests are reportedly specific for the M. tuberculosis complex, and so it is possible this animal presented with a latent case of tuberculosis or had a previous tuberculosis infection that resolved prior to testing. Cross-reactions with nontuberculous mycobacteria have been described with TB STAT-PAK® and MAPIA tests. However, Western blotting analysis using serum from this animal did not recognize M. interjectum proteins of equivalent size to the M. tuberculosis-Mycobacterium bovis proteins recognized in the MAPIA. Thus, antigenic cross-reactivity with M. interjectum can be deemed less likely, but other nontuberculous mycobacterial proteins cannot be ruled out. It is therefore possible that false-positive reactions were obtained. These results highlight the difficulty of diagnosing tuberculosis in the absence of pathology and the presence of nontuberculous mycobacteria.
- Multiantigen print immunoassay (MAPIA)
- Mycobacterium interjectum
- Pygmy hippopotamus
- TB STAT-PAK®