Australia trials chlamydia vaccine for koalas

Australia's koala population is getting a shot in the arm - quite literally.

About 400 koalas will be vaccinated against chlamydia as part of a trial which researchers say could play a significant role in the longer-term survival of Australia's native animals.

Peter Timms is a Professor of Microbiology at the University of the Sunshine Coast, which is leading the trial that began on Friday (October 15).

''So the animals will come in, they'll go through their normal treatment processes and when just the day before they're ready to be released back into the wild, they'll get a vaccine and a microchip and we'll get some data afterwards to see how well it went. That's the first vaccine trial, but we've got two more lined up."

Chlamydia, a sexually transmitted disease which is also found in humans, has spread widely among Australian koalas, affecting half the animals in some areas.

Although in many cases the disease can be treated with antibiotics, researchers hope the vaccine will help improve the survival and reproduction of the animals.

''If we can address disease, even if it's 50 to 70 percent effective, doesn't have to be 100 percent effective - cause no vaccines are that effective - that should make a big difference to the other half of the population. So is it a gamechanger, I think it'll make a significant difference, given that we haven't had this management tool before, which is why we're keen to roll it out and make it useful right now, rather than spend another ten years making it perfect."

A 2016 study ran by University of Queensland, calculated there were around 330,000 koalas left in Australia.

But a study commissioned by the World Wildlife Fund estimated that more than 60,000 had been killed, injured or affected in the some way by Australia's devastating bushfires in 2019 and early 2020.

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