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Pathological studies of wobbly possum disease in New Zealand brushtail possums (Trichosurus vulpecula)
  1. J. S. O'Keefe, BVSc, PhD1,
  2. W. L. Stanislawek, BVSc2 and
  3. D. D. Heath, PhD1
  1. 1 AgResearch Wallaceville, PO Box 40063, Upper Hutt, New Zealand
  2. 2 Central Animal Health Laboratory, PO Box 40063, Upper Hutt, New Zealand


Following an outbreak of wobbly possum disease in a colony of brush tail possums (Trichosurus vulpecula), the disease was established experimentally in captive possums by inoculating the animals intraperitoneally with tissue homogenates. Crude tissue homogenates of liver remained infectious after freezing at -75°C or filtration through a 0.22 pm filter. The disease was characterised by docility, incoordination, loss of balance and wasting. Fifteen of 16 infected animals had to be euthanased owing to the severity of the clinical signs. Cachexia was the only change observed postmortem. Histology revealed widespread perivascular infiltrations with plasma cells and lymphocytes which were severe in the liver and kidney and moderate to mild in a variety of other tissues, including skeletal and cardiac muscle. Changes in the brain consisted of a mild to moderate mononuclear perivascular cuffing. Most of the animals had small to large numbers of circulating nucleated red blood cells and eosinopenia when they were euthanased. There was a consistent decrease in serum albumin concentration and an increase in serum globulins, which resulted in a decreased albumin:globulin ratio. Virus-like particles were observed in preparations of liver from two animals; they appeared to be spherical or icosahedral and were 45 nm in diameter.

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