Wildlife Disease and Zoonotics


Date of this Version



Published in The Veterinary Record, February 16, 2008.


Mitogen- and antigen-induced interferon-γ (IFN-γ) responses of peripheral blood leucocytes from cervids were evaluated by a commercial whole-blood assay. The assay was applied to Mycobacterium bovis-infected white-tailed deer and reindeer, M bovis BCG-vaccinated white-tailed deer and elk, and unvaccinated, uninfected white-tailed deer, fallow deer, elk and reindeer. The responses of the M bovis-infected white-tailed deer to pokeweed mitogen (PWM) varied with time and between individuals. The responses of the M bovis-infected reindeer to PWM and M bovis purified protein derivative (PPD) were positively associated. Samples from tuberculosis-free captive herds in various parts of the USA were also evaluated. Four per cent of fallow deer, 20 per cent of elk, 44 per cent of white-tailed deer, and 91 per cent of reindeer had responses to PWM exceeding 0.25 Δ optical density, that is, PWM stimulation minus no stimulation. The specificity of the responses to M bovis PPD and a Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex-specific antigen rESAT-6:CFP-10, excluding animals not responding to PWM, ranged from 78 per cent to 100 per cent and was dependent upon the species and the positive response cut-off value. The results show that the commercial assay is valid for the detection of TB in reindeer; however, further development of the assay will be required before it is used in surveillance programs for white-tailed deer, fallow deer, and elk.