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Prevalence and clinical significance of herpesvirus infection in populations of Australian marsupials

Stalder, K., Vaz, P.K., Gilkerson, J.R., Baker, R., Whiteley, P., Ficorilli, N., Tatarczuch, L., Portas, T., Skogvold, K., Anderson, G.A. and Devlin, J.M. (2015) Prevalence and clinical significance of herpesvirus infection in populations of Australian marsupials. PLoS ONE, 10 (7). Article e0133807.

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Herpesviruses have been reported in several marsupial species, but molecular classification has been limited to four herpesviruses in macropodids, a gammaherpesvirus in two antechinus species (Antechinus flavipes and Antechinus agilis), a gammaherpesvirus in a potoroid, the eastern bettong (Bettongia gaimardi) and two gammaherpesviruses in koalas (Phascolarctos cinereus). In this study we examined a range of Australian marsupials for the presence of herpesviruses using molecular and serological techniques, and also assessed risk factors associated with herpesvirus infection. Our study population included 99 koalas (Phascolarctos cinereus), 96 eastern grey kangaroos (Macropus giganteus), 50 Tasmanian devils (Sarcophilus harrisii) and 33 common wombats (Vombatus ursinius). In total, six novel herpesviruses (one alphaherpesvirus and five gammaherpesviruses) were identified in various host species. The overall prevalence of detection of herpesvirus DNA in our study population was 27.2% (95% confidence interval (CI) of 22.6–32.2%), but this varied between species and reached as high as 45.4% (95% CI 28.1–63.7%) in common wombats. Serum antibodies to two closely related macropodid herpesviruses (macropodid herpesvirus 1 and 2) were detected in 44.3% (95% CI 33.1–55.9%) of animals tested. This also varied between species and was as high as 92% (95% CI 74.0–99.0%) in eastern grey kangaroos. A number of epidemiological variables were identified as positive predictors for the presence of herpesvirus DNA in the marsupial samples evaluated. The most striking association was observed in koalas, where the presence of Chlamydia pecorum DNA was strongly associated with the presence of herpesvirus DNA (Odds Ratio = 60, 95% CI 12.1–297.8). Our results demonstrate the common presence of herpesviruses in Australian marsupials and provide directions for future research.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Veterinary and Life Sciences
Publisher: Public Library of Science
Copyright: © 2015 Stalder et al.
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