Did transmission of Helicobacter pylori from humans cause a disease outbreak in a colony of Stripe-faced Dunnarts (Sminthopsis macroura)?

Alison Every, Lynne Selwood, Natalia Castano-Rodriguez, Wei Lu, Helen Windsor, Janet Wee, Agnieszka Swierczak, Barry Marshall, Nadeem Kaakoush, Hazel Mitchell, Philip Sutton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Since the discovery that Helicobacter pylori causes a range of pathologies in the stomachs of infected humans, it has become apparent that Helicobacters are found in a diverse range of animal species where they are frequently associated with disease. In 2003 and 2004, there were two outbreaks of increased mortality associated with gastric bleeding and weight-loss in a captive colony of the Australian marsupial, the Stripe-faced Dunnart (Sminthopsis macroura). The presence of gastric pathology led to an investigation of potential Helicobacter pathogenesis in these animals. Histological examination revealed the presence of gastritis, and PCR analysis confirmed the presence of Helicobacter infection in the stomachs of these marsupials. Surprisingly, sequencing of 16S rRNA from these bacteria identified the species as H. pylori and PCR confirmed the strain to be positive for the important pathogenesis factor, cagA. We therefore describe, for the first time, an apparent reverse zoonotic infection of Stripe-faced Dunnarts with H. pylori. Already prone to pathological effects of stress (as experienced during breeding season), concomitant H. pylori infection appears to be a possible essential but not sufficient co-factor in prototypic gastric bleeding and weight loss in these marsupials. The Stripe-faced Dunnart could represent a new model for investigating Helicobacter-driven gastric pathology. Infections from their human handlers, specifically of H. pylori, may be a potential risk to captive colonies of marsupials.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)26 - 31
Number of pages6
JournalVeterinary Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes

Cite this