Australian researchers have found that herpes is widespread in our marsupials, with nearly half of all wild wombats infected and 92 percent of eastern grey kangaroos exposed.
While a lot of animals host the herpes virus, it only tends to cause problems when the virus moves to a new species from the original host.
University of Melbourne Associate Professor Joanne Devlin told the ABC, “That’s why we tend to see the outbreaks of severe disease with herpes viruses in zoos, because zoos are the perfect place for viruses to jump from one species to another because the animals are unnaturally close together.”
"Normally, wombats are on the ground and koalas are in the trees. If you have them in a zoo or a hospital where people move from one enclosure to another, that sets up transmission pathways that wouldn’t be there in nature,” said Devlin.
The findings will assist zoos with managing disease outbreaks by identifying which animals are natural hosts for herpes.
The research also detected six previously-undiscovered herpes viruses.