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Pathological Features of Oxalate Nephrosis in a Population of Koalas (Phascolarctos cinereus) in South Australia

K. N. Speight1,2, W. Boardman2, W. G. Breed1, D. A. Taggart3, L. Woolford2, and J. I. Haynes1

1 Discipline of Anatomy and Pathology, School of Medical Sciences, University of Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
2 School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences, University of Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
3 Discipline of Ecology, Evolution and Landscape Science, School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

ABSTRACT
The wild and captive koala population of the Mt Lofty Ranges in South Australia has a high level of renal dysfunction in which crystals consistent with calcium oxalate have been observed in the kidneys. This study aimed to describe the pathological features of the renal disease in this population, confirm the composition of renal crystals as calcium oxalate, and determine whether any age or sex predispositions exist for this disease. A total of 51 koalas (28 wild rescues, 23 captive) were examined at necropsy, of which 28 (55%) were found to have gross and/or histological evidence of oxalate nephrosis. Histopathological features included intratubular and interstitial inflammation, tubule dilation, glomerular atrophy, tubule loss, and cortical fibrosis. Calcium oxalate crystals were demonstrated using a combination of polarization microscopy, alizarin red S staining, infrared spectroscopy, and energy-dispersive X-ray analysis with scanning electron microscopy. Uric acid and phosphate deposits were also shown to be present but were associated with minimal histopathological changes. No significant differences were found between the numbers of affected captive and wild rescued koalas; also, there were no sex or age predispositions identified, but it was found that oxalate nephrosis may affect koalas <2 years of age. The findings of this study suggest that oxalate nephrosis is a leading disease in this koala population. Possible causes of this disease are currently under investigation.

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  • 2013
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