Comparing Koala Retrovirus Infection Between Central and South East Queensland Koalas Royal Society of Queensland Research Project, 2019

Quigley, B. (2020)


The survival of the koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) is under serious threat, with this iconic marsupial declared “vulnerable” by the Australian government in 2012. A major contributor to this decline is disease, with Chlamydia widely recognised as the major infectious threat, and the relatively recently discovered retrovirus, Koala Retrovirus (KoRV), a threat itself and worse when combined with Chlamydia. KoRV is from the same family of viruses as HIV and has been detected in all South East Queensland koalas tested to date (Quigley et al., 2018). Currently, seven subtypes of KoRV (A-I) are recognised, and KoRV-B infection is significantly linked to chlamydial disease and cancer deaths in koalas from South East Queensland (Quigley et al., 2018; Chappell et al., 2017). However, similar testing has not been conducted in other parts of Queensland. Testing location is important, as genetic analysis of Queensland koalas revealed two different lineages of koalas co-occurring north of Brisbane, with possible biogeographic barriers at the St Lawrence Gap (near Rockhampton) and the Brisbane Valley (at Brisbane) (Neaves et al., 2016; Bryant & Krosch, 2016). This suggests that it may not be accurate to extrapolate test results from koalas around Brisbane to koalas north of Rockhampton. With strong evidence that KoRV is involved in very serious koala health conditions, it is time for focused research into KoRV across Queensland.