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Epidemiol Infect. 2015 Apr;143(5):922-31. doi: 10.1017/S0950268814002180. Epub 2014 Aug 29.

Tuberculosis in Laos, who is at risk: the mahouts or their elephants?

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Institut de la Francophonie pour la Médecine Tropicale,Vientiane,Lao PDR.
Lao Elephant Care and Management Programme,Vientiane,Lao PDR.
Elephant Care International,Hohenwald,USA.
Université de Montréal,Faculté de médecine vétérinaire,Québec,Canada.


Tuberculosis (TB) in elephants has the potential to infect humans and is an increasing public health concern. Lao PDR is one of the last countries where elephants are still used for timber extraction and where they live in close contact with their mahouts. There are 500 animals at work in the country, some interacting with wild herds. Although human TB prevalence is known to be high in Laos, studies on elephant TB had yet to be undertaken. From January to July 2012, screening was performed using the ElephantTB Stat-Pak assay on 80 elephants working around the Nam Pouy National Park in Sayaboury Province. This represents more than 18% of the total registered national working elephant population. Here we report that 36% of the elephants were seroreactive to the test. Of these, 31% had contacts with wild individuals, which suggests potential transmission of mycobacteria to the local wild herds. Clinical examination, chest X-rays, sputum microscopy and culture were performed on their 142 mahouts or owners. Despite high TB seroreactivity in elephants, no participant was smear- or culture-positive for Mycobacterium tuberculosis or M. bovis, although atypical mycobacteria were isolated from 4% of participants.


tuberculosis (TB)

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