HEY JUDE: Jude is one of three koalas currently treated for chlamydia at the Koala Care Centre.
FRIENDS of the Koala is participating in a Queensland University of Technology (QUT) project to produce a vaccine to manage chlamydia in koalas.
Lorraine Vass, president of Friends of the Koala, said the project is important for the Lismore koala population because almost half of kolas that come into care are diseased “and most of the diseased ones are affected by chlamydia or chlamydia-related infections,” she said.
“Our situation is very similar to the one in south-east Queensland. For whatever reason, the impact of chlamydia in koalas is not as great further south,” she said.
Two koala care groups – Moreton Bay Koala Rescue from Queensland and Friends of the Koala (FOK) in NSW – will participate in the final step of the project, scheduled to start in 2013.
“Our involvement is at the very end of the project, the actual field study, vaccinating koalas that are going back to the wild,” Ms Vass said.
“A chlamydia vaccine for koalas will be important to manage the disease, but it will not eradicate it, as it will only be administered to koalas that are captured and brought to care centres,” she said.
The project is lead by Professor Peter Timms, from the Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation of QUT.
For each trial, 10 female koalas will be vaccinated with the most effective version of the vaccine.
The vaccinated animals will be observed closely following administration of the vaccine, but they will be handled and released as per standard protocols for each centre.
The FOK Lismore study will involve 10 animals that are vaccinated at the Lismore Centre, observed there for up to two months, then released. The study will also include 10 similar but unvaccinated animals as controls.
“The work can’t start here until Professor Timms obtains NSW ethics approval and a scientific licence, which will probably take months,” Ms Vass said.