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Proc Biol Sci. 2012 Oct 22;279(1745):4206-14. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2012.1503. Epub 2012 Aug 22.

Assessing the impact of feline immunodeficiency virus and bovine tuberculosis co-infection in African lions.

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Division of Epidemiology, Department of Farm Animal Health, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands.


Bovine tuberculosis (BTB), caused by Mycobacterium bovis, is a disease that was introduced relatively recently into the Kruger National Park (KNP) lion population. Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV(ple)) is thought to have been endemic in lions for a much longer time. In humans, co-infection between Mycobacterium tuberculosis and human immunodeficiency virus increases disease burden. If BTB were to reach high levels of prevalence in lions, and if similar worsening effects would exist between FIV(ple) and BTB as for their human equivalents, this could pose a lion conservation problem. We collected data on lions in KNP from 1993 to 2008 for spatio-temporal analysis of both FIV(ple) and BTB, and to assess whether a similar relationship between the two diseases exists in lions. We found that BTB prevalence in the south was higher than in the north (72 versus 19% over the total study period) and increased over time in the northern part of the KNP (0-41%). No significant spatio-temporal differences were seen for FIV(ple) in the study period, in agreement with the presumed endemic state of the infection. Both infections affected haematology and blood chemistry values, FIV(ple) in a more pronounced way than BTB. The effect of co-infection on these values, however, was always less than additive. Though a large proportion (31%) of the lions was co-infected with FIV(ple) and M. bovis, there was no evidence for a synergistic relation as in their human counterparts. Whether this results from different immunopathogeneses remains to be determined.

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