General and comparative endocrinology

Non-invasive monitoring of glucocorticoid metabolites in banded mongooses (Mungos mungo) in response to physiological and biological challenges.

PMID 22926328


Free-ranging banded mongooses are infected by the novel pathogen, Mycobacterium mungi in northern Botswana. A reliable method for determining stress-related physiological responses in banded mongooses will increase our understanding of the stress response in M. mungi infection. Therefore, our aim was to examine the suitability of four enzyme immunoassays (EIAs) for monitoring adrenocortical endocrine function in captive and free-ranging banded mongooses based on fecal glucocorticoid metabolite (FGM) analysis. A conducted adrenocorticotropic hormone challenge revealed suitability of a valid measurement of FGM levels in banded mongoose feces for all four tested EIAs, with an 11-oxoetiocholanolone assay detecting 11,17-dioxoandrostanes (11,17-DOA) performing best. Subsequent analyses using only this EIA showed the expected decrease in FGM concentrations 48 h after administering dexamethasone sodium phosphate. Furthermore, captive mongooses showed higher FGM concentrations during reproductive activity, agonistic encounters and depredation events. Finally, a late-stage, tuberculosis-infected moribund mongoose in a free-ranging troop had a 54-fold elevation in FGM levels relative to the rest of the troop. Measurements of gastrointestinal transit times and FGM metabolism post-defecation indicate that the time delay of FGM excretion approximately corresponded with food transit time and that FGM metabolism is minimal up to 8h post-defecation. The ability to reliably assess adrenocortical endocrine function in banded mongoose now provides a solid basis for advancing our understanding of infectious disease and endocrinology in this species.