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Longitudinal study of wild koalas (Phascolarctos cinereus) reveals chlamydial disease progression in two thirds of infected animals.


ABSTRACT: Chlamydial disease threatens many of Australia's koala populations, and yet our understanding of chlamydial epidemiology and disease dynamics in koalas is limited by a lack of comprehensive, longitudinal population studies. To address this, we utilised longitudinal samples from a large-scale population study of wild koalas in south-east Queensland, to follow chlamydial infections over time and to investigate some of the drivers of disease progression. Our findings show, firstly, that almost two thirds of chlamydial infections progressed to disease, challenging the notion that chlamydial infections in koalas commonly remain chronic and asymptomatic. Secondly, disease progression at the urogenital tract site was associated with infection load, and urogenital tract shedding was significantly higher when koalas acquired a new infection. Thirdly, chronic chlamydial exposure was not necessary for pathogenic sequelae to develop, such as infertility and mortality. Fourthly, ompA-characterised strain sub-types may reflect tissue tropisms and pathogenicity, and the chlamydial status of some chronically infected koalas may be explained by reinfections with novel genotypes. Finally, successful antimicrobial treatment provided only short-term protection against reinfection and disease progression in susceptible koalas. These findings highlight the importance of identifying and preventing chlamydial infections in koalas, informing new population management strategies and research priorities.

SUBMITTER: Robbins A 

PROVIDER: S-EPMC6744427 | BioStudies | 2019-01-01

REPOSITORIES: biostudies

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