The lack of species-specific assays for the diagnosis of infectious diseases, such as bovine tuberculosis, poses a threat to the management of wildlife populations, especially for vulnerable species such as cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus). The aim of this study was to identify and develop a cell-mediated immunological cytokine-release assay that could distinguish between Mycobacterium bovis–infected and uninfected cheetahs using commercially available feline cytokine ELISA and domestic cat (Felis catus) recombinant proteins. Antibodies against domestic cat cytokines, tumour necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α), interleukin-1 beta (IL-1β), and interferon gamma (IFN-γ), were screened for cross-reactivity with plasma cytokines from cheetah whole blood stimulated using QuantiFERON®-TB Gold Plus (QFT) tubes. Evidence of cytokine production in response to QFT mitogen stimulation was observed in all four ELISA assays. However only the Mabtech Cat IFN-γ ELISABasic kit could distinguish between M. bovis–infected (n = 1) and uninfected (n = 1) cheetahs and was therefore selected for further evaluation. A preliminary cheetah specific cutoff value (11 pg/ml) for detecting M. bovis infection using the Mabtech Cat IFN-γ release assay was calculated using a M. bovis uninfected cheetah cohort. Although this study only included one confirmed M. bovis culture-positive and one M. bovis culture-negative cheetah, the Mabtech Cat IFN-γ release assay demonstrated its potential for diagnostic application in this species.
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