Development and evaluation of a diagnostic cytokine-release assay for Mycobacterium suricattae infection in meerkats (Suricata suricatta)

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Clarke, C ; Patterson, S J ; Drewe, J A ; Van Helden, P D ; Miller, M A ; Parsons, S D C (2017)

Background Sensitive diagnostic tools are necessary for the detection of Mycobacterium suricattae infection in meerkats (Suricata suricatta) in order to more clearly understand the epidemiology of tuberculosis and the ecological consequences of the disease in this species. We therefore aimed to develop a cytokine release assay to measure antigen-specific cell-mediated immune responses of meerkats. Results Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISAs) were evaluated for the detection of interferon-gamma (IFN-γ) and IFN-γ inducible protein 10 (IP-10) in meerkat plasma. An IP-10 ELISA was selected to measure the release of this cytokine in whole blood in response to Bovigam® PC-HP Stimulating Antigen, a commercial peptide pool of M. bovis antigens. Using this protocol, captive meerkats with no known M. suricattae exposure (n = 10) were tested and results were used to define a diagnostic cut off value (mean plus 2 standard deviations). This IP-10 release assay (IPRA) was then evaluated in free-living meerkats with known M. suricattae exposure, categorized as having either a low, moderate or high risk of infection with this pathogen. In each category, respectively, 24.7%, 27.3% and 82.4% of animals tested IPRA-positive. The odds of an animal testing positive was 14.0 times greater for animals with a high risk of M. suricattae infection compared to animals with a low risk. Conclusion These results support the use of this assay as a measure of M. suricattae exposure in meerkat populations. Ongoing longitudinal studies aim to evaluate the value of the IPRA as a diagnostic test of M. suricattae infection in individual animals. Electronic supplementary material The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12917-016-0927-x) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
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