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J Infect Dis. 1998 Dec;178(6):1719-25.

Primary Mycobacterium avium complex infections correlate with lowered cellular immune reactivity in Matschie's tree kangaroos (Dendrolagus matschiei).

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  • 1Department of Pathology, National Zoological Park, Smithsonian Institution, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20008, USA.


The National Zoological Park has maintained a breeding colony of Matschie's tree kangaroos (Dendrolagus matschiei) since 1975 with a documented history and continued prevalence of Mycobacterium avium complex (MAC) infections. No evidence of immunosuppressive retrovirus infections or loss of heterozygosity that may have led to an immune dysfunction in these animals was found. Isolates of MAC organisms from affected tree kangaroos and from their environment had no common restriction fragment DNA types. Cellular immune reactivity in apparently healthy tree kangaroos was 3- to 6-fold lower than in humans and other marsupial and eutherian mammals, as determined by lymphocyte proliferative assays. Thus, while MAC infections are typically opportunistic in humans and other mammals, tree kangaroos commonly develop primary progressive disease with MAC from random sources. Comparative information derived from this study should benefit both the endangered tree kangaroo and humans with immunosuppressive disorders that lead to mycobacterial infections.

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