University of Wisconsin–Madison

First JD Cases in Mexican Zoo

A.L. Hernández-Reyes from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), School of Veterinary Medicine and Zootechnics and colleagues reported on the first cases of Johne’s disease in zoo animals in Mexico. Their Open Access report appears in the journal Veterinary World.


Background and Aim: Paratuberculosis (PTB) is an infectious disease that induces chronic enteritis in ruminants. It is caused by Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis (MAP). In this study, we evaluated the presence of MAP using bacteriological, molecular, and anatomopathological studies, based on the clinical suspicion of PTB in a zoo, in an area housing 10 scimitar-horned oryx (Oryx dammah), five giraffes (Giraffa camelopardalis), and three blue wildebeests (Connochaetes taurinus).

Materials and Methods: From November 2016 to June 2017, fecal samples were collected from individuals of the three species on four occasions, resulting in a total of 56 fecal samples. In addition, five small intestine samples were collected from the necropsies of three adult scimitar-horned oryx females and two oryx calves. MAP identification was performed through isolation in Herrold’s medium with egg yolk, mycobactin, and sodium pyruvate, Ziehl–Neelsen staining, IS900 polymerase chain reaction (IS900 PCR), and anatomopathological examination of intestine samples.

Results: Diffuse granulomatous enteritis with abundant acid-fast bacilli was found in two out of five intestine samples from adult scimitar-horned oryx females. MAP was isolated in 7/56 (12.5%) of the fecal samples from four scimitar-horned oryx, one giraffe, and two wildebeest samples. Two out of 5 (40%) samples obtained from scimitar-horned oryx tested positive. IS900 PCR yielded five positive samples (two fecal samples and three small intestine samples). MAP isolates were classified as Type C (Cattle) using type-specific PCR.

Conclusion: These results demonstrated the presence of MAP in the area evaluated and indicated the importance of both sampling live animals and conducting postmortem examinations. The use of bacteriological and histopathological diagnostic techniques demonstrated in this study will provide insight into the health status and prevalence of paratuberculosis in wild ruminants under human care.


Zoo veterinarians are keenly aware that MAP can infect and cause disease in many of the captive nondomestic ruminants they care for. For more about the efforts to control Johne’s disease in zoos and prevent exchange of MAP-infected animals among zoos I encourage you to go to this page on this website and follow links to several important publications on that page. Oryx photo credit: Wikipedia.