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Adaptation and evaluation of an ELISA for Trypanosoma evansi infection (surra) in elephants and its application to a serological survey in Thailand



Trypanosoma evansi, the causative agent of surra, is widespread in domestic livestock and wildlife in South East Asia. Surra can affect cattle, buffaloes, horses and also Asian elephants (Elephas maximus). Despite the ‘threatened to extinction’ CITES status of elephant, surra's impact has not been thoroughly assessed yet in this species. This work offers to adapt an antibody enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) protocol, to detect Trypanosoma evansi antibodies in elephant serum. The test was validated with 365 negative-reference samples, which allowed the determination of a 16% positive threshold. The test was applied to a serological survey including 375 individuals. The estimated global seroprevalence was 2·1% (95% CI 1·1–4·2%). Therefore, surra does not appear to be endemic in Thai domestic elephants, but occasional outbreaks were reported to our laboratory during the survey period. These outbreaks seemed to be linked to close proximity to cattle or buffaloes, and led to severe clinical signs in elephants. Frequent relapses were observed after treatment with diminazene aceturate, the only trypanocide drug currently available in Thailand. Therefore, care should be taken to keep elephants away from bovine reservoirs, and to monitor the disease in this endangered species. ELISA proved to be reliable for screening purposes as well as for post-treatment monitoring.


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*Corresponding author. Faculty of Veterinary Technology, Kasetsart University, Chatuchak, Bangkok 10900, Thailand. E-mail:


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