Ellie, a 46-year-old Asian elephant at the Saint Louis Zoo, has tested positive for tuberculosis (TB). Zoo veterinarians and the elephant care team are preparing to start her on an appropriate treatment regimen.

Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria/CDC
Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria/CDC

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Missouri Department of Agriculture and local agencies have been informed about Ellie’s test results, and the Zoo is following appropriate management and treatment plans while keeping these agencies informed. Ellie does not pose an exposure risk to Zoo visitors.

“Because the Saint Louis Zoo is dedicated to caring for animals, our established protocols have allowed us to detect this early and take necessary steps for Ellie,” said the Zoo’s Director of Animal Health, Dr. Luis Padilla. “Elephants with tuberculosis can be treated. Ellie has a professional and caring team devoted to her health and well-being, and together we are developing an individualized treatment plan for her.”

The Zoo routinely and proactively tests all its elephants for TB as part of its comprehensive health monitoring program for this species. Ellie was diagnosed through a combination of blood tests and a trunk culture, which are a part of the Zoo’s regular veterinary care of elephants.

TB occurs occasionally in elephants and can be treated successfully. In 2011-2012, the Zoo diagnosed and successfully treated another elephant, Donna, for TB, and she is continuously being monitored. Ellie is not showing any symptoms, and elephant care team will begin treatments with antibiotics. She will remain with her family to maintain social support while she is under veterinary care.

The Zoo’s elephant care team will monitor Ellie’s progress through repeated trunk cultures and blood tests during her prescribed treatment. Throughout her treatment, all of the other elephants in her family will continue to be monitored regularly and routinely for TB, per established protocols.

Regular TB screening for all staff and volunteers is part of the Zoo’s employee health program.

Ellie came to the Saint Louis Zoo in July 2001, at age 29.