Format

Send to

Choose Destination
mSphere. 2019 Jun 5;4(3). pii: e00216-19. doi: 10.1128/mSphere.00216-19.

Jet-Setting Koalas Spread Cryptococcus gattii VGII in Australia.

Author information

1
Sydney School of Veterinary Science, The University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.
2
The Westmead Institute for Medical Research, Westmead, New South Wales, Australia.
3
Molecular Mycology Research Laboratory, Centre for Infectious Diseases and Microbiology, The University of Sydney-Westmead Clinical School, Faculty of Medicine and Health, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.
4
Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale delle Venezie, Legnaro, Padua, Italy.
5
Translational Genomics Research Institute, Flagstaff, Arizona, USA.
6
Centre for Veterinary Education, The University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.
7
Marie Bashir Institute for Infectious Diseases and Biosecurity, The University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.
8
Sydney School of Veterinary Science, The University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia mark.krockenberger@sydney.edu.au.
9
Veterinary Pathology Diagnostic Services, The University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.

Abstract

Cryptococcus gattii molecular type VGII is one of the etiologic agents of cryptococcosis, a systemic mycosis affecting a wide range of host species. Koalas (Phascolarctos cinereus) exhibit a comparatively high prevalence of cryptococcosis (clinical and subclinical) and nasal colonization, particularly in captivity. In Australia, disease associated with C. gattii VGII is typically confined to Western Australia and the Northern Territory (with sporadic cases reported in eastern Australia), occupying an enigmatic ecologic niche. A cluster of cryptococcosis in captive koalas in eastern Australia (five confirmed cases, a further two suspected), caused predominantly by C. gattii VGII, was investigated by surveying for subclinical disease, culturing koala nasal swabs and environmental samples, and genotyping cryptococcal isolates. URA5 restriction fragment length polymorphism analysis, multilocus sequence typing (MLST), and whole-genome sequencing (WGS) provided supportive evidence that the transfer of koalas from Western Australia and subsequently between several facilities in Queensland spread VGII into uncontaminated environments and environments in which C. gattii VGI was endemic. MLST identified VGII isolates as predominantly sequence type 7, while WGS further confirmed a limited genomic diversity and revealed a basal relationship with isolates from Western Australia. We hypothesize that this represents a founder effect following the introduction of a koala from Western Australia. Our findings suggest a possible competitive advantage for C. gattii VGII over VGI in the context of this captive koala environment. The ability of koalas to seed C. gattii VGII into new environments has implications for the management of captive populations and movements of koalas between zoos.IMPORTANCE Cryptococcus gattii molecular type VGII is one of the causes of cryptococcosis, a severe fungal disease that is acquired from the environment and affects many host species (including humans and koalas). In Australia, disease caused by C. gattii VGII is largely confined to western and central northern parts of the country, with sporadic cases reported in eastern Australia. We investigated an unusual case cluster of cryptococcosis, caused predominantly by C. gattii VGII, in a group of captive koalas in eastern Australia. This research identified that the movements of koalas between wildlife parks, including an initial transfer of a koala from Western Australia, introduced and subsequently spread C. gattii VGII in this captive environment. The spread of this pathogen by koalas could also impact other species, and these findings are significant in the implications they have for the management of koala transfers and captive environments.

KEYWORDS:

Cryptococcus ; cryptococcosis; koala; molecular epidemiology; veterinary microbiology

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for American Society for Microbiology Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center