Efficacy of Hematophagous Arthropods in Screening Zoo Animals for Tuberculosis and Bluetongue Virus
American Association of Zoo Veterinarians Conference 2012

Arne Lawrenz1, Dr. med. vet.; André M. Stadler1, Dipl-Biol; Katrin Grie1; Günter A. Schaub2, Prof

1Zoological Garden Wuppertal, Wuppertal, Germany; 2Zoology/Parasitology Group, Department of Animal Ecology, Evolution and Biodiversity, University Bochum, Germany


Hematophagous triatomine bugs of the family Reduviidae were used to sample blood from four different species of zoo animals for the screening of bluetongue virus (BTV) and tuberculosis (TB). These large blood-sucking insects constitute a useful tool for stress-free blood sampling of zoo and wild animal species that would otherwise need to be immobilized.

Hematophagous insects have been successfully used in xenodiagnosis5,6 in humans, in investigations of energy balance, water budget and hormone levels studies in small mammals,3,4,10-12 primates,9 birds,1,2 for rabies serology13 as well as in many zoo species for haematology and blood chemistry examination.7,8

To validate the efficacy of blood-sucking bugs for standard serologic and molecular tests, the results of intravenous-drawn blood samples were compared to blood collected by the bugs. Sterilely hatched and fifth instar stage nymphs of Dipetalogaster maxima were used to collect up to 1.1 ml of blood. The blood was immediately extracted from the distended stomach of the bugs with a syringe and placed in a Li-Heparin vial following which individuals were decapitated.

For BTV antibody and antigen screening the blood from white-lipped deer (Cervus albirostris) (n=12) and domestic sheep (Ovis aries domesticus) (n=4) was tested using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and polymerase chain reaction.

To test for TB the Chembio TB STAT-PAK assay was used in Malayan tapirs (Tapirus indicus) (n=5) and South American sea lions (Otaria flavescens) (n=5).

Positive and negative results were found for BTV and TB, and both blood sampling techniques yielded identical results.


The authors thank Dr. Ulrich Schürer, Zoological Garden Wuppertal, for giving us the opportunity to run the tests and Rolf Allmann from the CVUA Muenster for performing the tricky Bluetongue Virus diagnostic.

Literature Cited

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Speaker Information
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Arne Lawrenz, Dr. med. vet.
Zoological Garden Wuppertal
Wuppertal, Germany

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