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A case of avian tuberculosis in spotted deer


B.M. Arora

The author is the Director of the National Zoological Park, New Delhi 3, India. He wishes to thank the Head of the Division of Bacteriology and Mycology for undertaking cultural studies of the specimen submitted and arranging typing facilities.

Tuberculosis is - one of the most important infectious diseases affecting members of the deer family in zoological parks. The disease has mainly been attributed to Mycobacterium bovis and Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The present communication puts on record the isolation of Mycobacterium avium from the pulmonary tuberculous lesions found in an adult male spotted deer (Axis axis) that died in captivity. The details of the clinicopathological and cultural findings are discussed below.

While an epizootic outbreak of trypanosomiasis in a herd of spotted deer at Maitri Baugh Zoo, Bhilai, Madhya Pradesh, India, was being investigated, an adult male deer died of M. avium tuberculosis. The apparent clinical signs were emaciation, sunken eyes and a prominent spinal cord. There was a circular suppurative abscess in the right parotid gland. Necropsy revealed pinhead - to pea-size yellowish-white nodules in both lungs containing caseated pus. The pharyngeal parotid and mesenteric lymph nodes also contained pus. The heart, liver, spleen and kidneys, on the other hand, appeared to be normal, although the small and large intestines were congested and a large quantity of small stone particles was present in the caecum. The rumen, reticulum and omasum were full of feed and the mucous membrane of the abomasum was congested. Moreover, a big hydatid cyst was found attached to the mesentery.

The smears prepared from the lungs' nodular lesions and stained with Zichl-Neelsen were found positive for acid-fast bacilli of a more slender type, but nevertheless indistinguishable from the Mycobacterium species. A culture of the lung tissue revealed tuberculosis bacilli, which were typed as M. avium on the basis of standard biochemical tests.

The author is unaware of any published report on avian tuberculosis infection in deer in India, and this appears to be the first record relating to M. avium infection in cervids. This infection is not uncommon in deer in other countries, however (Griffith, 1928; Christiansen, 1931; Schmidt, 1938; Hopkinson and McDiarmid, 1964; McDiarmid, 1967; Hime et al., 1971; John, 1974; Kollias, 1978; Stacy, 1986). The avian-type infection has been found to cause disease in animals, but generally the risk of spreading is considered to be less than that with M. bovis and M. tuberculosis.

The source of infection was not established, and the role of birds in the epidemiology of tuberculosis in cervids is also Unclear.

Male spotted deer (Axis axis) that died of tuberculosis - Cerf tacheté (Axis axis) mort de tuberculose - Ciervo macho con manchas (Axis axis) muerto de tuberculosis

Tuberculous lesions in the lung of a male spotted deer diagnosed with Mycobacterium avium - Lésions dues à la tuberculose détectées dans les poumons d'un cerf tacheté; l'agent pathogène diagnostiqué était Mycobacterium avium - Lesiones de tuberculosis en el pulmón de un ciervo macho con manchas (Axis axis) diagnosticado de Mycobacterium avium

A round lesion with pus (cleaned) in the parotid region - Lésion circulaire avec pas (désinfectée) dans la région de la parotide - Lesión circular con pus (limpia) en la región de la parótida

Pharyngeal gland/region marked with pus on dissection - Zone du pharynx où l'on a retrouvé des signes de pus a la dissection - Zona glandular faríngea marcada con pus en la disección

Small stone particles recovered from the caecum - Petites pierres retrouvées dans le cæcum - Pequeñas partículas de piedra recuperadas del intestino ciego


Arora, B.M. 1987. Some bacterial diseases of spotted deer (Axis axis). Vet. Rec., 120: 420

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