Origins and potential impacts of a multisystemic bacterial infection emergent in Christmas Island Geckos

An unusual Enterococcus species has been identified as the cause of severe facial swellings and multi-systemic infection in Christmas Island Geckos. In some animals, masses of organism replace 50-60% of the internal organs. The bacteria are surrounded by a thick coat of mucoid material, which seems to protect the organism from the host’s immune system and may also protect them from antibiotic therapy.

This highly unusual organism was identified within the tissues of a critically endangered Blue-tailed skink from Christmas Island in December 2016. There are grave concerns that the infection could become established in the last remaining endemic reptile species on the island, the Christmas Island Giant Gecko. The zoonotic potential of this organism is unknown.