Mycobacterium bovis has global public-health and socio-economic significance and can infect a wide
range of species including the lion (Panthera leo) resulting in tuberculosis. Lions are classified as
vulnerable under the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and have experienced a 30% population
decline in the past two decades. However, no attempt has been made to collate and critically evaluate
the available knowledge of M.bovis infections in lions and potential effects on population. In this
review we set out to redress this. Arguments suggesting that ingestion of infected prey animals are
the main route of infection for lions have not been scientifically proven and research is needed into other possible sources and routes of infection. The paucity of knowledge on host susceptibility,
transmission directions and therefore host status, manifestation of pathology, and epidemiology of the
disease in lions also needs to be addressed. Advances have been made in diagnosing the presence
of M. bovis in lions. However, these diagnostic tests are unable to differentiate between exposure,
presence of infection, or stage of disease. Furthermore, there are contradictory reports on the effects
of M. bovis on lion populations with more data needed on disease dynamics versus the lion
population’s reproductive dynamics. Knowledge on disease effects on the lion reproduction and how
additional stressors such as drought or co-morbidities may interact with tuberculosis is also lacking.
Filling these knowledge gaps will contribute to the understanding of mycobacterial infections and
disease in captive and wild lions and assist in lion conservation endeavours.