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Around 400 Australian koalas are one step closer to being protected from the bacteria infection known as chlamydia. Researchers are set to begin trial chlamydia vaccine at Queensland’s Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital. They are hoping the trial will help the marsupials with the pervasive infection thus preserving their survival.
The new trial study is set to begin on Friday, Oct. 22, 2021. Each of the participating koalas will be injected with the chlamydia vaccine and a microchip before they are released back into the natural habitat. This will allow researchers to keep track of their test subjects.
The bacterial infection is typically known amongst the human race as a sexually transmitted disease. Koalas mothers can transfer this infection to their joeys. In some of the marsupial populations in New South Wales and southeast Queensland have an infection rate as high as 50 percent.
Professor of microbiology at the University of the Sunshine Coast, Peter Timms, stated “While this vaccination will directly benefit each of the animals, the trial will also have a focus on the protection provided by vaccination.”
Last year, Timms and his colleagues published a report in Nature about their chlamydia vaccine for koalas. The team’s vaccine took over 10 years to develop. Their data shows, the vaccine showed promise of being more effective than antibiotics for the koalas.
According to Timms, around ” 10 or even 20 percent of animals that go through the [Australia Zoo] wildlife hospital come back to the hospital. In a lot of cases, if you just treat them with antibiotics, they often come back with [the] chlamydial disease again.”
He and his team are sure the vaccine “can reduce infection levels.” They have already tested the vaccine on koalas in eight smaller trial studies.
We know that the vaccine is safe. It causes no problems at all.
Amber Gillett, a veterinarian at the Australia Zoo Wildlife — and its coordinator of research — called the bacterial infection ” a cruel disease.” She added that chlamydia causes the koalas to experience bladder infections, debilitating conjunctivitis, “and at times, infertility.” Not to mention those koalas that are infected by chlamydia are also at risk of blindness or even death.
The vaccine trial will hopefully protect the koala population. If nothing is done soon koalas could become endangered.
Written by Sheena Robertson
People: 400 Australian Koalas to Be Vaccinated Against Chlamydia in New Trial: ‘It Is a Cruel Disease’; by Tristan Balagtas
Top and Featured Image Courtesy of Chris Fithall’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image Courtesy of Amy the Nurse’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License