The aim of this study was to determine if ferritin is a reliable biomarker of iron overload disorder (IOD) progression and hemochromatosis in the Sumatran rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) by developing a species-specific ferritin assay and testing historically banked samples collected from rhinos that did and did not die of hemochromatosis. Ferritin extracted from Sumatran rhino liver tissue was used to generate antibodies for the Enzyme Immunoassay. Historically banked Sumatran rhino serum samples (n = 298) obtained from six rhinos in US zoos (n = 290); five rhinos at the Sumatran Rhino Conservation Centre in Sungai Dusun, Malaysia (n = 5); and two rhinos in Sabah, Malaysia (n = 3) were analyzed for ferritin concentrations. Across all US zoo samples, serum ferritin concentrations ranged from 348 to 7,071 ng/ml, with individual means ranging from 1,267 (n = 25) to 2,604 ng/ml (n = 36). The ferritin profiles were dynamic, and all rhinos exhibited spikes in ferritin above baseline during the sampling period. The rhino with the highest mean ferritin concentration did not die of hemochromatosis and exhibited only mild hemosiderosis postmortem. A reproductive female exhibited decreases and increases in serum ferritin concurrent with pregnant and nonpregnant states, respectively. Mean (±SD) serum ferritin concentration for Sumatran rhinos in Malaysia was high (4,904 ± 4,828 ng/ml) compared to that for US zoo rhinos (1,835 ± 495 ng/ml). However, those in Sabah had lower ferritin concentrations (1,025 ± 52.7 ng/ml) compared to those in Sungai Dusun (6,456 ± 4,941 ng/ml). In conclusion, Sumatran rhino serum ferritin concentrations are dynamic, and increases often are not associated with illness or hemochromatosis. Neither a specific pattern nor the individual's overall mean ferritin concentration can be used to accurately assess IOD progression or diagnose hemochromatosis in this rhino species.
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