Chlamydia in Koalas? Believe it or not, chlamydia has been a major threat to the continued survival of koalas with almost all populations affected by the virus.

Australian biologists discovered the koala chlamydia outbreak in 1988 and studies currently show that fifty to ninety percent of koalas test positive for chlamydia. If left untreated, this strain of virus can be fatal to the koala species.

Chlamydia is a bacterium which acts like a virus. The most common strain of chlamydia in humans is the sexually transmitted infection caused by the bacterium chlamydia trachomantis. The big question is – are the cute and cuddly marsupials infected by the same sexually transmitted infection you heard about in health class? The koala chlamydia and the human chlamydia are a slightly different strain as they have extended genetic diversity in the species, as well as different identifying genetic characteristics.

Now, if you’re curious to know if you can get chlamydia from some of nature’s cuddliest creatures, the answer is yes, you can, but nope, not that way.

There are different varieties of chlamydia strains which affect the koala population:

• C. pneumonia is a form of community-acquired pneumonia and is not the sexually-transmitted type. Unfortunately, this variety can be transmitted to humans. If an infected koala urinates on a person, they can possibly transmit this type of chlamydia to that person. C. pneumoniae is one of the leading causes of pneumonia in the world. This strain is the least lethal among the chlamydia strains in koalas.
• C. psittaci is the most harmful and is usually the more lethal of the chlamydia strains among koalas. This strain has two types: Type I, considered to be the more infectious of the types, but not as common and Type II, the more common of the types and is linked to conjunctivitis and urinary tract infections. These two types are known to cause infertility, blindness and death.
• C. pecorum is the most widespread and the most pathogenic of the chlamydia strains. It normally causes urinary tract and respiratory infections reproductive disease and infertility.

The origin of chlamydia in koalas is still unclear, but one thing is sure, predators may not be that big of a threat to the koala population control, but chlamydia definitely is. Fortunately, treatment option in the form of a chlamydia vaccine is now available for koalas with identifiable chlamydia infections and disease.