In humans, chlamydia causes a nasty venereal disease; in koalas, it is a killer. Infection with chlamydia is decimating koala populations in northeastern Australia, according to zoo surveys. Chlamydia has caused symptoms in about half of Queensland’s wild koalas, according to a report last year. The bacteria are transmitted during birth, through mating and possibly through fighting, according to the New York Times. It causes eye infections, which lead to blindness that prevents the animals from foraging; respiratory infections; cysts that lead to infertility; and other problems. Compounding matters is a widespread infection rate with koala retrovirus, like a form of HIV, which suppresses koala immune systems and makes the chlamydia even harder to fight. Researchers are working on a vaccine that could prevent the further spread of chlamydia.
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