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Koalas In Japan Infected With Leukemia Virus

April 13, 2009

A report said that close to 90 percent of koalas in Japanese zoos are infected with a virus that is believed to cause leukemia in the marsupials.

The Daily Yomiuri reported that researchers at the Institute for Virus Research Kyoto University and the Japanese Association of Zoos and Aquariums tested the blood of 50 of the 62 koalas kept in Japan.

According to the paper, the koala retrovirus was detected in all 38 northeastern koalas, and in four of 11 southern koalas.

The virus is not expected to cause danger to humans, however there is concern that it could lead to a dramatic decline in the number of koalas in captivity in Japan, the daily said.

It also said that even though sources of the infections were not identified, it is expected that they have already been infected before being imported from Australia.

Scientists say it is difficult to prevent koalas from being infected with the virus as it takes on the reproductive cells of the koalas and is passed down to their offspring, the daily said.

Of the 38 koalas born in Japan, 36 were found to have been infected, it added.

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