Detection of a range of genetically diverse chlamydiae in Australian domesticated and wild ungulates.
Chlamydiae are globally widespread obligate intracellular bacteria, which several species are a well-recognized threat to human and animal health. In Australia, the most successful chlamydial species are the infamous koala pathogen C. pecorum, and C. psittaci, an emerging pathogen associated with zoonotic events. Little is known about infections caused by other chlamydial organisms in Australian livestock or wildlife. Considering that these hosts can be encountered by humans at the animal/human interface, in this study, we investigated genetic diversity of chlamydial organisms infecting Australian domesticated and wild ungulates. A total of 185 samples from 129 domesticated (cattle, horses, sheep, and pigs) and 29 wild (deer) ungulate hosts were screened with C. pecorum and C. psittaci species-specific assays, followed by a screen with pan-Chlamydiales assay. Overall, chlamydial DNA was detected in 120/185 (65%) samples, including all ungulate hosts. Species-specific assays further revealed that C. pecorum and C. psittaci DNA were detected in 27% (50/185) and 6% (11/185) of the samples, respectively, however from domesticated hosts only. A total of 46 "signature" 16S rRNA sequences were successfully resolved by sequencing and were used for phylogenetic analyses. Sequence analyses revealed that genetically diverse novel as well as traditional chlamydial organisms infect an expanded range of ungulate hosts in Australia. Detection of the C. psittaci and C. pecorum in livestock, and novel taxa infecting horses and deer raises questions about the genetic make-up and pathogenic potential of these organisms, but also concerns about risks of spill-over between livestock, humans, and native wildlife.