Late onset cerebellar cortical degeneration in a koala

M Kuwamura,a* F Murai,a S Nishioka,c M Aoki,b F Ohashi,b J Yamate,a T Kotania and BA Summersd


*Correspondence author.

Laboratories of

aVeterinary Pathology and

bVeterinary Surgery, Osaka Prefecture University, Sakai, Osaka 599-8531, Japan;

cOsaka Municipal Tennoji Zoological Gardens, Osaka City, Osaka, Japan

dDepartment of Pathology and Infectious Diseases, Royal Veterinary College, UK


A 10-year-old male koala started to fall from the tree while sleeping. Subsequently, the koala often fell down while walking and showed a gait abnormality, abnormal nystagmus and hypersalivation. At 12 years of age, the koala became ataxic and seemed blind. At 13 years of age, the koala exhibited signs of dysstasia and was euthanased. Necropsy revealed marked symmetrical atrophy of the cerebellum. Histopathologically, a severe loss of Purkinje and granule cells was evident in the cerebellum, while the molecular layer was more cellular than normal with cells resembling small neurons, which were positively stained with parvalbumin immunohistochemistry. Reactive Bergmann glial cells (astrocytes) were present adjacent to the depleted Purkinje cell zone. The very late onset and slow progression of the cerebellar cortical degeneration in this case is particularly interesting and appears to be the first report in the koala.