Rare bacteria in dead elephant sparks alarm

Known to be highly pathogenic, the bacteria can be fatal when infected by humans though it happens rarely.

Published: 16th October 2017 07:53 AM  |   Last Updated: 16th October 2017 07:53 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

BHUBANESWAR: For the first time, chromobacterium violaceum, a highly pathegenic organism, has been detected in an elephant which was found dead in a Dhenkanal forest in May.

The Centre for Wildlife Health, which isolated the rare bacteria after a series of high level investigations in Odisha and outside, has informed the Wildlife Wing of the Forest and Environment Department and sought a further investigation to ascertain if it exists in the elephant corridor of the district.

Known to be highly pathogenic, the bacteria can be fatal when infected by humans though it happens rarely. The very fact that it has been found in an elephant shows its existence in the region.

However, it is known to affect other mammals - both domestic and wildlife - in which it develops TB-like symptoms. That it was detected in a young elephant has surprised experts at Centre for Wildlife Health, a specialised unit operating at the College and Veterinary Science and Animal Husbandry (CVS&AH) of OUAT.

“It is for the first time in the world that chromobacterium violaceum was found to have caused death of a wild elephant which is a significant discovery,” said Prof Niranjan Sahu, who heads the Department of Preventive Medicine at (CVS&AH).

The Centre, which has developed a state-of-the-art lab to investigate wild animal health, was examining the death of an elephant from Dhenkanal when it found the animal to have noddles in its spleen and lungs.
“Initially, it was presumed to be TB because that is the normal symptom of the disease but a deeper analysis led us to chromobacterium violaceum. We had to conduct test of its whole genus and carry out microbiological investigation,” Prof Sahu said.

The Centre, which has preserved the bacteria, had to conduct the gene sequencing at a standard laboratory in Bengaluru to arrive at the conclusion.

According to Prof Sahu, the elephant contracted the bacteria from soil but since the jumbos are long ranging animals, it is difficult to ascertain where the pathogenic organism was present.
“This needs elaborate investigation which is why we have written to the PCCF (Wildlife) seeking permission. The investigation should be carried out in the elephant corridors,” he informed.


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