October 14, 2011

In the Spotlight - Past Wildlife Disease Investigation from AWHW

Interesting Case from the Latest Australian Wildlife Health Network Newsletter - Wildlife Health in Australia

Wild Platypus in New South Wales (page 7)

A subadult male in poor body condition was presented after several days in care. Blood work revealed a moderate to marked infection of red blood cells with a parasite (Theileria) not uncommonly found in these animals. The animal was treated for the parasite and nursed diligently for approximately one week before deteriorating in condition and dying.

Based on histological and bacteriological findings, the animal was suffering from acute enteritis and appeared to have developed a terminal septicaemia with Staphylococcus sp. Additional findings included adrenal cortical hyperplasia and splenic histiocytic proliferation. The former indicates this animal was physiologically stressed. The latter is interesting given the ante mortem diagnosis of Theileriosis. It is speculated that increased phagocytic cells demonstrating erythrophagocytosis in the spleen were removing infected erythrocytes (7962.1).

Theileria infections have been previously identified in both platypus and bandicoots but have not been related to disease in these species. Theileria in platypus have commonly been identified as Theileria ornithorhynchi but infection densities have generally been low (Ladds 2009). For immunosupressed and young individuals however, infection may be more significant (Vogelnest & Woods 2008).