Diagnosis and Management of TB in a Colony of Orangutans in the Real World: Complex But Not Complicated
American Association of Zoo Veterinarians Conference 2012

Chris Walzer1, Dr. med vet, DECZM (Wildlife Pop. Health); Alexis Lecu2, DVM, Argus Irwanto3, DVM; Signe Preuschoft4, PhD; Citrakasih Nente3, DVM

1Research Institute Wildlife Ecology, Department of Integrative Biology and Evolution, University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna, Austria; 2Paris Zoo, Paris, France; 3BOS Samboja Lestari Project, Samboja, East Kalimantan, Indonesia; 4CC Apes, Four Paws, Vienna, Austria


Due to the insidious nature, severity and zoonotic potential, Mycobacteria tuberculosis complex (MTB) is uniquely difficult to diagnose in great apes and especially in orangutans. While there are numerous detailed plans and guidelines to combat and manage tuberculosis in captive non-human primates, these are often poorly adapted to field or in-situ scenarios. Due to the poor performance of the various unspecific diagnostic tests (e.g., clinical examination, chest x-rays and blood work) and inadequate and non-validated sensitivity and specificity of indirect and direct tests (e.g., inter-alia: comparative skin tests, interferon-gamma release tests, Ziehl-Nielsen staining) the clinician and manager is necessarily faced with a confusing array of results. We demonstrate in a colony of orangutans in East Kalimantan how the attempt to adhere to complex guidelines in a diagnostic-training-constrained environment is inherently rife with uncertainties. Integrating risk analysis and defining acceptable risk from the onset appears key to moving forwards in addressing this complex multi-faceted problem. When knowledge is uncertain and predictive values are weak, this is often used as an argument to obstruct problem transformation and resolution. We show that finding a transparent forward-thinking approach in dealing with uncertainties is the key to addressing complex problems such as TB management in orangutans.


Speaker Information
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Chris Walzer, Dr med vet, DECZM (Wildlife Pop. Health)
Research Institute Wildlife Ecology
Department of Integrative Biology and Evolution
University of Veterinary Medicine
Vienna, Austria

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