Chlamydia pecorum infection is highly prevalent in many koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) populations in the eastern states of Australia, causing ocular and urogenital tract disease. In contrast, the current prevalence of chlamydiosis in South Australian (SA) koalas is largely unknown, with few reports of clinical cases. We examined 65 SA rescued wild koalas at necropsy and collected ocular and urogenital swabs for the detection of C. pecorum by PCR. We detected C. pecorum in ocular or urogenital swabs from 57 koalas (88%), and 34 koalas were positive at both ocular and urogenital sites. Clinically overt chlamydial disease was present in only 12 (21%) positive koalas. Gross lesions were often externally inapparent as they affected the urogenital tract (n=5), and 24 infected koalas had microscopically evident lesions only. Lesions were predominantly mild and included conjunctivitis, cystitis, and urethritis. Reproductive tract disease was infrequently observed. We detected C. pecorum in 16 (28%) koalas with no evidence of chlamydial disease, suggesting the presence of subclinical carriers in this population. Based on these findings, chlamydiosis has a higher occurrence in SA koala populations than previously thought, but is most often mild and does not always result in overt clinical disease; inapparent and subclinical infections appear common. Further studies of the prevalence in wild-caught SA koalas are needed along with research into the host and bacterial factors that may influence disease outcome in these animals.
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Vol. 52 • No. 2