Survey of antituberculosis drug administration and adverse effects in elephants in North America


Tuberculosis, caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis, is a disease causing morbidity and mortality in captive elephants (Elephas maximus and Loxodonta africana) as well as free-ranging individuals. Elephants in North America diagnosed with tuberculosis are often treated with antituberculosis drugs, unlike livestock species, which has necessitated the development of treatment guidelines adapted from recommendations for humans. There are few published reports describing empirical treatment, which may be complicated by poor patient compliance, interruptions in drug administration, and adverse effects. A survey of elephants in North America was conducted to compile information on treatment protocols, including drugs, dosages, routes of administration, serum drug concentrations, and adverse effects of antituberculosis treatment. Responses were received regarding 182 elephants, 12 of which were treated prophylactically or therapeutically with antituberculosis drugs. Treatment protocols varied among elephants, and included various combinations of isoniazid, rifampin, pyrazinamide, ethambutol, enrofloxacin, levofloxacin, and ethionamide. Serum drug concentrations also varied considerably among and within individuals. Facility staff reported 5 elephants (out of 7 treated elephants with responses) that exhibited clinical signs that may have been associated with antituberculosis drugs or treatment procedures. Anorexia, decreased water intake, constipation, depression, ataxia, limb paresis, and tremors were among the signs observed. Most adverse effects were reported to be moderate or severe, resulting in interruption of the treatment. The results from this survey provide veterinarians and elephant managers with valuable historical data to make informed clinical management decisions regarding antituberculosis therapy in elephants.


Animal Science

Document Type





Adverse drug effects, Anti-TB drugs, Elephant, Elephas maximus, TB treatment, Tuberculosis

Publication Date


Journal Title

Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine