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Epidemiology of Mycobacterium bovis infection in free-ranging rhinoceros in Kruger National Park, South Africa

  • Dwyer, Rebecca
  • Goosen, Wynand
  • Buss, Peter
  • Kedward, Simon
  • Manamela, Tebogo
  • Hausler, Guy
  • Chileshe, Josephine
  • Rossouw, Leana
  • Fowler, James H
  • Miller, Michele
  • Witte, Carmel
Publication Date
Jun 14, 2022
eScholarship - University of California
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Mycobacterium bovis infection, which is a prominent cause of bovine tuberculosis, has been confirmed by mycobacterial culture in African rhinoceros species in Kruger National Park (KNP), South Africa. In this population-based study of the epidemiology of M. bovis in 437 African rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis, Ceratotherium simum), we report an estimated prevalence of 15.4% (95% CI: 10.4 to 21.0%), based on results from mycobacterial culture and an antigen-specific interferon gamma release assay from animals sampled between 2016 and 2020. A significant spatial cluster of cases was detected near the southwestern park border, although infection was widely distributed. Multivariable logistic regression models, including demographic and spatiotemporal variables, showed a significant, increasing probability of M. bovis infection in white rhinoceros based on increased numbers of African buffalo (Syncerus caffer) herds in the vicinity of the rhinoceros sampling location. Since African buffaloes are important maintenance hosts for M. bovis in KNP, spillover of infection from these hosts to white rhinoceros sharing the environment is suspected. There was also a significantly higher proportion of M. bovis infection in black rhinoceros in the early years of the study (2016–2018) than in 2019 and 2020, which coincided with periods of intense drought, although other temporal factors could be implicated. Species of rhinoceros, age, and sex were not identified as risk factors for M. bovis infection. These study findings provide a foundation for further epidemiological investigation of M. bovis, a multihost pathogen, in a complex ecosystem that includes susceptible species that are threatened and endangered.

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