Koala given all-clear after new chlamydia vaccine

Flann the koala is ready to be released back into the wild. Photo: Ben Beaden
Flann the koala is ready to be released back into the wild. Photo: Ben Beaden

A Queensland wildlife hospital has given a koala suffering chlamydia the all-clear after a six-week trial of a new vaccine.

The vaccine was developed by a team of researchers from the University of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland with funding from the Redland City Council.

Professor Peter Timms led the trial, which he described as unique because vaccines are usually given as a preventative rather than a cure.

Vaccines against chlamydia had already been tested on healthy koalas with positive results, he said, however the disease remained a threat to koalas in the wild.

Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital director Dr Rosie Booth said of more than 600 koalas brought to the hospital in 2015, 38 per cent had chlamydia.

The trial would take a few years, she said, as it aimed to treat 30 koalas with early stages of chlamydia but most koalas brought to hospital suffered from later stages of the disease.

Flann the koala was found in Petrie, north of Brisbane, with mild conjunctivitis in one eye, she said.

Conjunctivitis is an early sign of chlamydia, making Flann a perfect first candidate for the new vaccine trial, she said.

She said hospital staff usually administered a 28-day course of antibiotics but the treatment had side effects and did not prevent koalas from becoming re-infected upon release into the wild.

She said Flann did not suffer any side effects from the vaccine, unless she counted the fact that "he put on weight" since he didn't have to forage for food during his six-week stint in hospital.

Professor Timms and Dr Booth both said the long-term aim of the trial was for wildlife doctors and rangers to use the vaccine on all koalas encountered.

Dr Booth said chlamydia is one of three major threats to koala populations alongside road accidents and dogs.

Flann is pictured with, from left, Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital director Dr Rosie Booth,  University of the Sunshine Coast PhD student Sharon Nyari and Redland City Mayor Karen Williams.

This story Koala given all-clear after new chlamydia vaccine first appeared on Brisbane Times.