Main content area

Chlamydia pecorum Infection in the Male Reproductive System of Koalas (Phascolarctos cinereus)

Palmieri, Chiara, Hulse, Lyndal, Pagliarani, Sara, Larkin, Rebecca, Higgins, Damien P., Beagley, Kenneth, Johnston, Stephen
Veterinary pathology 2019 v.56 no.2 pp. 300-306
Chlamydia, Chlamydophila pecorum, Phascolarctos cinereus, animal pathology, antigens, chlamydiosis, cytoplasm, epidemiology, epididymis, epithelial cells, hospitals, immunohistochemistry, inflammation, males, quantitative polymerase chain reaction, sexual maturity, urethra, Queensland
Chlamydiosis is the most documented and serious disease of koalas, characterized by ocular, urinary, and reproductive lesions. Since little attention has been paid to the pathological effects of this infection in the male reproductive system, we aimed to determine the incidence and severity of reproductive pathology associated with chlamydial infection in male koalas submitted to koala hospitals in southeast Queensland. The entire reproductive tract from 62 sexually mature male koalas not suitable for rehabilitation was evaluated and 677 tissue samples were collected for histology, immunohistochemistry (IHC), and real-time polymerase chain reaction (qPCR). Lymphoplasmacytic inflammation was observed in 178 of 677 (26.3%) tissue samples from the upper and lower reproductive tract, mainly in the prostatic, penile, and membranous urethra. IHC was positive for the chlamydial antigen in 19 of 451 normal samples (4.2%) and 46 of 178 samples with inflammation (25.8%), located within the cytoplasm of epithelial cells of the epididymis, vas deferens, prostate, bulbourethral glands, and the prostatic membranous and penile urethra. Chlamydia pecorum was detected via qPCR in 319 of 451 normal samples (70.7%) and 159 of 178 samples with inflammation (89.3%), with the highest incidence in the penile urethra, prostate, membranous urethra, and bulbourethral glands. This study suggests that Chlamydia infection in the male reproductive tract is more widespread than originally thought. Furthermore, the male reproductive tract might be a reservoir for persistent chlamydial infections in koalas, with important implications for prophylactic strategies and epidemiology.