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Microflora of the Pouch of the Koala (Phascolarctos cinereus)

Ro Osawa, Wendy H. Blanshard and Paul G. O’Callaghan

Veterinary Service and Research, Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, Jesmond Road, Fig Tree Pocket, Queensland 4069, Australia.

ABSTRACT

Microflora of the pouch epithelium of 17 female koalas (Phascolarctos cinereus) were examined in relation to their current reproductive status and recent reproductive history. No microbial growth was observed in pouch swabs from 13 of 17 (76%) koalas, including four females without young, seven with pouch young and two with back young (i.e. permanently emerged from the pouch). Growth of bacteria or yeasts was observed in pouch swabs from four koalas, each of which had experienced mortality of its pouch young during the current breeding season. Seven species of microorganisms were isolated, including Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Serratia marcescens and Enterococcus faecalis. Based on the absence of microflora in the majority of females examined, we propose that the pouch epithelium normally provides a hostile environment for microbial colonization.