Oregon Zoo suspends TB treatment for Packy, 'weighs next steps'

Packy in the pool at Elephant Lands. © Oregon Zoo / photo by Sara Hottman.

Officials with the Oregon Zoo say they've had to suspend tuberculosis treatment for Packy, the zoo's 54-year-old Asian elephant.

Packy was diagnosed with TB in December 2013, but his routine check found active TB this past September. It was an indication his medication was not properly treating the infection.

“We had been feeling increasingly optimistic about Packy’s treatment regimen, and he had been tolerating it well, so this recent result was disappointing,” said Dr. Tim Storms, the zoo’s senior veterinarian.

Further testing showed Packy's particular strain of TB may be resistant two antibiotics.

“Without those options, we’re very limited in our ability to treat this infection,” Dr. Storms said. “We’ve stopped Packy’s treatment for the time being, since we now know that it’s been ineffective. We’re consulting with veterinarians and pharmacologists around the country, considering what to do next.”

The Oregon Zoo has successfully treated two elephants with TB, but little remains known about treating TB in elephants.

“You can catch glimpses of him from time to time in the southernmost yard, which is to the right as you’re walking along the pathway into Forest Hall,” elephant curator Bob Lee said. “And we’ll continue to share photos and videos whenever we can.”

Packy is the oldest male of his species on the continent.

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