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Bacterial diseases of elephants


Animal diseases

Bacterial diseases of elephants

Have you ever wondered what are the bacterial diseases of elephants? Do you think that these are the same that can occur in other species? Or are you not so sure? Do not worry because then we will deepen this interesting topic.

Although they are generally long-lived and have a strong appearance,Elephants are animals that can also get sick.

Tuberculosis, one of the bacterial diseases of elephants

Tuberculosis is a fairly common bacterial infection that affects almost all animal species. It has been found in primates, ruminants, birds, rhinos and elephants.

As a curiosity, we commit you that the first case of tuberculosis – described in African elephants – dates from 1962.


The causative agent is a microbacterium of the complex Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Humans and bovids are the natural reservoir of most species of this microbacterium.

Transmission and symptoms

The usual route of transmission is ingestion or inhalation ofbioaerosols (dust mites, skin or hair scales, pollen, fungal spores, etc.). In the case of elephants, this occurs, for example, by the contact of the tube with the mouth of another specimen.

bacterial diseases of elephants

Tuberculosis is only transmissible if the animal has active disease, not simply latent.

It should be noted that, normally, elephants do not show a clear symptomatology. If you can see chronic weight loss, anorexia and weakness. And a total intolerance to the realization of efforts. Occasionally, abnormal nasal discharge can be seen in the tube.

Staff Biosecurity

Being a serious and very infectious disease, prevention by the staff that manages the elephants is essential. The use of masks, gloves and specialized suits to deal with sick animals. And subsequent hygiene, especially of the hands.

Anthrax, another dangerous disease in elephants

Anthrax is an acute febrile illness that affects most domestic and wild mammals, and even birds. In the elephants it appears mainly in the copies that are in freedom, although also it has been described in zoos.


The causative agent is the bacteria Bacillus anthracis, producer of very resistant spores in the middle. And the infection is produced by the ingestion of these spores in their vegetative form. They go to the respiratory system, the intestine, etc., and spread throughout the body.

The severity of this disease occurs when the spores act as exotoxins, altering the coagulation cascade and causing bleeding.

Transmission and symptoms

Elephants can be infected by several routes. Vectors, such as flies and mosquitoes, can contaminate skin wounds or directly inoculate the bacteria. They can also be excreted with the feces of infected animals and contaminate the grass or water.

The respiratory infection causes pneumonia and respiratory distress. Bacterial intake causes cramping and hemorrhagic diarrhea. And the systemic condition can cause neuronal damage with paralysis and seizures.


Generally, salmonellosis is a food poisoning, but sometimes it causes a systemic disease that occurs with septicemia. And the causative bacteria is Salmonella spp.

Transmission and symptoms

Salmonella is lodged in the gastrointestinal tract of animals that act as a reservoir. And it is eliminated with feces, thus contaminating the environment. Therefore, the transmission is usually fecal-oral.

Infected elephants suffer from anorexia, diarrhea and intestinal cramps. In the most severe cases, as we saw at the beginning, sepsis appears.

The elephant is one of the species to conserve biodiversity


In this case we are faced with a group of diseases caused by Escherichia coli. Some cause invasive tissue infections; others an enterotoxemia. But normally the E.coli It is part of the normal intestinal flora of animals.

Transmission and symptoms

Colibacillosis is transmitted via fecal-oral route.. But the clinical forms are varied:

  • Some strains cause diarrhea, enterotoxic or not.
  • Others produce a disease that invades the tissues and leads to septicemia.


Mycoplasmosis is an infection of the mucous membranes and serous membranes that can lead to autoimmune disease.

The causative agent is Mycoplasma spp. and usually causes urinary infections in elephants. The transmission is produced by the intake of food or water contaminated with the urine of sick animals.

Early diagnosis is key

As we have seen, there are several bacterial diseases of elephants that put their health at risk and that, As soon as your first symptoms are detected, they should be treated immediately in the proper way.

Good veterinary care from the beginning can contribute greatly to the recovery process.

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