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An Investigation Of Streptococcal Flora In Feces Of Koalas

Ro Osawa, Veterinary Service and Research, Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, Fig Tree Pocket, Brisbane, Australia 


I conducted quantitative and qualitative studies of streptococcal flora in the feces of 39 captive and 13 free-ranging koalas (Phascolarctos cinereus) with specific reference to tannin-protein complex degrading (T-PCD) Streptococcus bovis. Female koalas, most of which were lactating, had higher viable counts (approx 10 times) of T-PCD S. bock in their feces than did males. The T-PCD S. bovis bacterium dominated the fecal streptococcal flora of the free-ranging koalas, which had a limited choice of diet compared to captive koalas. Strains of T-PCD S. bovis isolated from most of the koalas born in captivity showed slightly different biochemical characteristics to those isolated from both the free-ranging individuals and animals that had been in captivity for >3 years. Enterococci such as S. faecalis and S. faeciurn were only isolated from the captive koalas, suggesting that contact with humans and other animals introduced these bacteria to the koalas. Fecal streptococci can be regarded as "indicator" organisms to assess nutritional and ecological status of the animals.