Diagnosis of active mycobacterial disease in orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus) has been impeded by high levels of non-specific intradermal skin test reactivity to mycobacterial antigens. This may be due in part to cross reactivity between antigens, tuberculin concentrations used or other species-specific factors. Antigen 85 (Ag85) complex proteins are major secretory products of actively growing mycobacteria, and measurement of serum Ag85 could provide a method for determining active mycobacterial infections that was not dependent on host immunity. Serum Ag85 was measured by dot-immunobinding assay using monoclonal anti-Ag85, purified Ag85 standard and enhanced chemiluminescence technology in coded serum samples from 14 captive orangutans from a zoo in Colorado, 15 semi-captive orangutans in Malaysia, and 19 free-ranging wild orangutans in Malaysia. Orangutans from Colorado (USA) were culture negative for Mycobacterium tuberculosis and M. avium, although all had laboratory suspicion or evidence of mycobacterial infection; median serum Ag85 was 10 μU/ml (range, <0.25–630 μU/ml). Of the semi-captive orangutans, six were skin test reactive and two were culture positive for M. avium on necropsy. Median serum Ag85 for this group was 1,880 μU/ml (0.75–7,000 μU/ml), significantly higher than that of Colorado zoo or free-ranging Malaysian orangutans. Median serum Ag85 in the latter group was 125 μU/ml (range, 0.75–2,500 μU/ml). These data suggest that suggest that additional studies using more specific reagents and more samples from animals of known status are appropriate.
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Vol. 37 • No. 1