Abstract

Details of 11 previously reported cases and 32 new cases of cryptococcosis in captive and wild koalas were analysed. Cryptococcus neoformans var. gattii accounted for all 29 cases in which varietal status was determined. No age or sex predisposition was observed. The respiratory tract was the primary focus of disease in 77% of cases. Although the lower respiratory tract was affected most commonly (60% of cases), 30% of cases had upper respiratory tract lesions and 14% had both. Dissemination was common, especially to the central nervous system (37% cases). Local extension to surrounding tissues was a feature of upper respiratory tract disease. Other tissues showing cryptococcal invasion included lymph nodes (19%), gastrointestinal tract (12%), kidneys (12%), spleen (9%) and skin (7%). Only three cases (7%) had no respiratory tract or central nervous system involvement, two cases of primary skin inoculation and one case of primary lymphadenopathy. Late presentation was a likely factor in the high proportion of cases with disseminated disease (40%). The proportion of koala cases with involvement of the central nervous system, lower respiratory tract and skin, parallels what has been reported for immunocompetent people. Cryptococcosis in the koala appears to be an excellent naturally occurring model for examination of the cryptococcal host-parasite relationship in all species.