Pharmacokinetics of a single dose of metronidazole after rectal administration in captive asian elephants (Elephas Maximus)

Samantha J. Sander, Jessica L. Siegal-Willott, Jessie Ziegler, Elizabeth Lee, Lisa Tell, Suzan Murray

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Metronidazole is a nitroimidazole antibacterial and antiprotozoal drug with bacteriocidal activity against a broad range of anaerobic bacteria. It is a recognized treatment for elephants diagnosed with anaerobic bacterial infection or protozoal disease or exhibiting signs of colonic impaction, diarrhea, and colic. This study evaluated the pharmacokinetics of rectally administered metronidazole (15 μg/kg) in five adult female Asian elephants (Elephas maximus). Serum samples were collected from each animal for 96 hr after rectal administration of metronidazole. Serum concentrations of metronidazole and its primary metabolite, hydroxymetronidazole, were measured via ultraperformance liquid chromatography. Data were analyzed via a noncompartmental pharmacokinetic approach. Results indicated that serum levels of metronidazole were quantifiable at the 0.25 hr time point and absent in all elephants by the 96 hr time point. The serum peak concentration (mean ± SD, 13.15 ± 2.59 μg/ml) and area under the curve from time 0 to infinity (mean ± SD, 108.79 ± 24.77 hr × μg/ml) were higher than that reported in domestic horses after similar usage. Concurrently, the time of maximum serum concentration (mean ± SD, 1.2 ± 0.45 hr) and terminal elimination half-life (harmonic mean ± pseudo-SD, 7.85 ± 0.93 hr) were longer when compared to equine reports. Rectal administration of metronidazole was well tolerated and rapidly absorbed in all study elephants. Based on the findings in this study, metronidazole administered at a single dose of 15 μg/kg per rectum in the Asian elephant is likely to result in serum concentrations above 4 μg/ml for 8 hr and above 2 μg/ml for 24 hr after treatment is administered. Dosing recommendations should reflect the mean inhibitory concentration of metronidazole for each pathogen.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-5
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Asian elephant
  • Elephas maximus
  • Metronidazole
  • Pharmacokinetic
  • Rectal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • veterinary(all)


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