New vaccine takes aim at our sick koalas

Dr Samuel Phillips – Researcher, University of the Sunshine Coast

New vaccine takes aim at our sick koalas

A world-first nanoparticle vaccine against chlamydia is now safe to use for the thousands of koalas admitted for treatment in wildlife hospitals across Australia, say University of the Sunshine Coast researchers.

Koalas are under threat of extinction, and chlamydia is their second-highest killer. But only half of koalas survive the antibiotic treatment for the disease – so in this case, prevention is better than cure.

Catching and vaccinating koalas costs huge amounts of money, so scientists wanted to find out if they could vaccinate koalas that were already in ‘hospital’ to be treated for chlamydia-induced bladder infections, to prevent further illness and spread.

Fortunately, the scientists proved that they could successfully and safely vaccinate koalas receiving antibiotics – the koalas’ immune system took up the vaccination even during antibiotic treatment.

“Antibodies against Chlamydia in koala blood dropped during the antibiotic treatment, but after treatment finished the vaccinated koalas were better protected against Chlamydia,” says Dr Phillips.

“Now we know that future Chlamydia vaccines can be safely administered to koalas receiving antibiotics.”

Dr Samuel Phillips works with colleagues including Bonnie Quigley, Professor Peter Timms, Dr Michael Pyne and Dr Rosemary Booth

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