Mycobacterial species are raising serious concerns in livestock and wild animals worldwide. In wildlife, mycobacterial infection has been reported in hundreds of species and likely has the potential to occur in every vertebrate. Since this infection is of a chronic nature the best strategy to control the infection is through early identification of infected animals, and better diagnostic measures are required for effective control programs.
With the development of new molecular methods for detecting and characterizing microorganisms, the ecology of mycobacteria has rapidly advanced in all areas. In human medicine, polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assays are accepted diagnostic standards, replacing or complementing culture isolation and acid-fast staining.
The mycobacterial species that produce tuberculosis in humans and animals are included in the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex (MTC). Mycobacteria from the Mycobacterium avium complex (MAC) cause a variety of diseases including tuberculosis-like disease in humans and birds, disseminated infections in immunocompromised patients, lymphadenitis in humans and mammals and paratuberculosis in ruminants.
This manuscript is a review of the scientific literature on the classification and biology, epidemiology, clinical signs, pathology, diagnostic techniques, and public health concerns of Mycobacterium tuberculosis and Mycobacterium avium complexes in wild mammals.