October 19, 2021

Is this the most adorable vaccine rollout ever?

Is this the most adorable vaccine rollout ever?
Dr. Chris Brown

This might just be the cutest vaccine rollout ever. But also one of the most important. But how do you give a chlamydia jab to a shy animal that lives up a tree? Let’s find out…

Before the 2019 bushfire season affected more than 60,000 koalas, they were already struggling with two massive challenges. Habitat loss and chlamydia. In fact, the sexually transmitted disease has run rampant through the wild populations with more than 50% of koalas battling chlamydia in some areas.

In koalas, the bacteria causes conjunctivitis (weepy eyes) as well as cysts and swelling of the reproductive tract leading to ‘wet bum’. Unfortunately, for a species that needs to breed up in big numbers, it’s the biggest factor holding them back from reproductive success.

But in the background, a team from The University of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland has spent the last 10 years developing a single shot vaccine against the disease. And this week, phase 3 trials have begun at Australia Zoo. Initially captive koalas and wild patients brought into the hospital will be given the shot until they reach their target of 400 koalas protected. If the trial is successful (and early results are promising) then every wild koala brought in for a health check will be given the vaccine and microchipped. Over time, vaccination techniques for completely wild koalas will be developed to ensure it’s not just the sick or injured being vaccinated. Even a 20% coverage should have a significant impact on the number of newborn koalas appearing each year…

So while we’re focused on our own human challenges, let’s not forget the species that’s been struggling for years. Fingers crossed this is the break they’ve been needing…


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