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TDK conference 2012

European survey of Clostridium perfringens and Clostridium difficile cases in the captive African (Loxodonta africana) and Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) populations between 1990 and 2012
Koroknai Viktória - year 6
Budapest Zoo; SzIU, Faculty of Veterinary Science, Department of Pathology and Forensic Veterinary Medicine
Supervisors: Dr. Endre Sós, Dr. János Gál


The purpose of the questionnaire we sent out to all the zoos across Europe keeping Asian (Elephas maximus) and African (Loxodonta africana) elephants, was to gather information about cases of severe gastrointestinal disease caused by Clostridium spp. between 1990 and 2012. The initial aim was to collect all available data on such cases and compare their history, clinical presentation, treatment and pathology. Furthermore, information was collected on whether vaccination of elephants against Clostridium species was carried out at any of the surveyed facilities across Europe, in addition to gathering information regards fecal testing protocols as a screening mechanism for C. difficile. Altogether 27 out of 70 (39%) responses were received from establishments with captive Asian elephants (E. maximus) and 18 out of 48 (37%) from zoos keeping African elephants (L. africana) with a total of 45 out of 118 (38%). From the questionnaires received, 7 cases of alimentary clostridial disease were reported across the European continent, 5 in Asian elephants, and the other 2 in the African species. The causative agent was described as C. perfringens in 3 cases, C. difficile in another 3 instances, and one case failed to provide this information. From our results we were able to show that clinically and on necropsy the symptoms and lesions caused by these bacteria, followed similar trends to one another, with only minor variations. With most cases resulting in the death of the animal, successful treatment, though only presenting in two instances, was beneficial for providing possible insights into managing similar cases in the future and offering regimes for institutions to employ in such instances. Owing to the low success rate of treatments, complex husbandry of these animals and a possible etiological link to other diseases, the conclusion can be drawn that elephant keeping institutions should place special emphasis and effort into preventative measures. However, though the initial goal of the study was to attempt to piece together a preventive protocol for animals in such situations, information proved insufficient to make such declarations. Concrete information on the subjects of C. difficile screening and vaccination protocols was both scares and inconsistent, and therefore proved difficult to compare. Though valuable to summarize cases of clostridial disease in captive elephants across the European continent, many additional questions were raised on the subject through the course of this study. Further research would be beneficial in determination of the precise role of C. perfringens and C. difficile in the gastrointestinal tract of elephants, in standardizing a testing method in order to screen the population for the presence of C. difficile and possibly implementing a vaccination protocol, in hopes of providing further insights into this devastating disease, and in attempts to manage and even prevent future cases.

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