As part of the ELAOS project, which aims to improve understanding of the transmission of tuberculosis between humans and animals, the IRD is partnering with Free the Bears (FTB), an animal welfare organization, to extend sampling and research to the bears rescued by the association.

© IRD - Sabrina Locatelli

Over 80 bears have been rescued by the association since the opening of a reserve, on a mountaintop 50 minutes from Luang Prabang in northern Laos. Most of them have been rescued from illegal wildlife trade, such as bile farms (a remedy in traditional Asian medicine, bear bile is taken directly from live animals, trapped in their cages, using a catheter inserted into the gall bladder after incision) or from tourist entertainment activities. After providing the necessary care, Free the Bears releases the bears in a safer wild territory. However, as previously documented in an FTB sanctuary in Cambodia, these bears run a major risk: contracting tuberculosis from humans and transmitting it to their peers.

© IRD - Sabrina Locatelli

So far limited to research on elephants, the ELAOS project (Emergence of Tuberculosis at the Human-Elephant Interface) is expanding with the aim of optimizing and validating a non-invasive tuberculosis diagnostic procedure, to avoid the stressful and sometimes risky bronchoalveolar washings required to detect this mycobacterium in bears.

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