Merck Manual

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Professional Version

Tuberculosis in Cervids


Nuno Santos

, PhD, CIBIO-InBIO, University of Porto

Reviewed/Revised Mar 2023 | Modified Jun 2023

Tuberculosis due to Mycobacterium bovis or Mycobacterium caprae is an important problem in many species of farmed and wild cervids, including axis deer, fallow deer, white-tailed deer, mule deer, sika deer, and red deer/elk/wapiti. Deer appear to be unusually susceptible to M bovis infections. Mycobacterium avium infections may produce similar lesions. Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection is uncommon.

Tuberculous lesions may be confined to isolated lymph nodes, usually in the head, or they may be generalized in lymph nodes and organs. Abscessation in deer should always raise suspicions of TB. A presumptive diagnosis may be made on the basis of the intradermal tuberculin assay, interferon-gamma assay, serologic assays, or a combination of those methods. Infection should be confirmed by an organism-based test.

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