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Characterization of the Koala Biovar of Chlamydia pneumoniae at Four Gene Loci - ompAVD4, ompB, 165 rRNA, groESL Spacer Region 

STACEY WARDROP1, ANTHONY FOWLER1, PAUL. O'CALLAGHAN, PHILLIP GIFFARD, and PETER TIMMS
Centre for Molecular Biotechnology, School of Life Sciences, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, Fig Tree Pocket, Brisbane, Australia, 4001

ABSTRACT

Koalas are infected with two species of Chlamydia, C. pecorum and C. pneumoniae. While it is known that significant genetic diversity occurs in the C. pecorum strains infecting koalas, very little is known about the C. pneumoniae strains that infect this host. In the current study, 10 isolates of koala C. pneumoniae were analysed at four gene loci and found to be different to both the human and horse C. pneumoniae strains at all loci (biovar differences ranging from 0.3% at groF.SI. up to 9.0% at ompAVD4). All koala biovar isolates studied were found to be 100% identical at ompAVD4 (all 10 isolates) and at ompB (all three isolates) genes. This lack of allelic polymorphisms at ompAVD4 has now been observed for koala C. pneumoniae, human C. pneumoniae, guinea pig inclusion conjuctivitis C. psittaci and feline conjuctivitis C. psittaci and may he correlated to a lack of antibody response to the chlamydial major outer membrane protein (MOMP) in these same strain/host combinations. This study also provides the first documented case of natural C. pneumoniae infection causing a severe and extended respiratory episode in a captive koala population. This captive episode is in contrast to most free-range observations in which koala C. pneumoniae is rarely documented as causing respiratory, ocular or urogenital tract disease.