Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) dams and their newborn calves were tested for Mycobacterium tuberculosis antibodies in serum. Blood was drawn from dams prior to calving and from calves on their day of birth. All six calves born to tuberculosis-reactive dams were also tuberculosis reactive, suggesting prenatal passive placental transfer of tuberculosis antibodies. In contrast, all three calves born to tuberculosis-nonreactive dams lacked detectable tuberculosis antibodies in pre-suckling or day-of-birth blood samples. Of the living tuberculosis-reactive calves observed from 1 to 11 yr of age, none exhibited clinical signs of tuberculosis infection or became tuberculosis culture positive. This is the first report of prenatal passive placental transfer of tuberculosis antibodies in elephants and demonstrates that detectible tuberculosis antibodies in newborn elephant calves should not be assumed to correlate with clinical tuberculosis.
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