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The prevalence and clinical significance of Chlamydia infection in island and mainland populations of Victorian koalas (Phascolarctos cinereus)

Jade L. S. Patterson,1,2 Michael Lynch,2 Garry A. Anderson,1 Amir H. Noormohammadi,1 Alistair Legione,1 James R. Gilkerson,1 and Joanne M. Devlin1,3

1 The Faculty of Veterinary Science, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria, 3010 Australia

2 Veterinary Department, Melbourne Zoo, Elliot Avenue, Parkville, Victoria, 3052, Australia
3 Corresponding author (email: )

ABSTRACT
Chlamydia infection is known to impact the health of koalas (Phascolarctos cinereus) in New South Wales (NSW) and Queensland, but the clinical significance of Chlamydia infections in Victorian koalas is not well described. We examined the prevalence of Chlamydia infection and assessed associated health parameters in two Victorian koala populations known to be Chlamydia positive. The same testing regimen was applied to a third Victorian population in which Chlamydia had not been detected. We examined 288 koalas and collected samples from the urogenital sinus and conjunctival sacs. Detection and differentiation of Chlamydia species utilized real-time PCR and high-resolution melting curve analysis. Chlamydia pecorum was detected in two populations (prevalences: 25% and 41%, respectively) but only from urogenital sinus swabs. Chlamydia was not detected in the third population. Chlamydia pneumoniae was not detected. Chlamydia pecorum infection was positively associated with wet bottom (indicating chronic urinary tract disease) in one Chlamydia-positive population and with abnormal urogenital ultrasound findings in the other Chlamydia-positive population. The prevalence of wet bottom was similar in all populations (including the Chlamydia-free population), suggesting there is another significant cause (or causes) of wet bottom in Victorian koalas. Ocular disease was not observed. This is the largest study of Chlamydia infection in Victorian koalas, and the results suggest the potential for epidemiologic differences related to Chlamydia infections between Victorian koalas and koalas in Queensland and NSW and also between geographically distinct Victorian populations. Further studies to investigate the genotypes of C.  pecorum present in Victorian koalas and to identify additional causes of wet bottom in koalas are indicated.

  • All
  • 2013
  • Biogeography
  • Biology
  • Chlamydia
  • Diet
  • Disease
  • Ecology
  • Ellis
  • Eucalyptus
  • Genetics
  • Habitat
  • Infection
  • Interventions
  • Koala
  • Lunney
  • Threats
  • Timms
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