Koala research could aid humans

UNIVERSITY of the Sunshine Coast researchers who made a world-first breakthrough in koala chlamydia research could also have made progress in tackling the human form of the disease.

USC senior researcher Adam Polkinghorne said after five years of developing a vaccine, the first successful trials had been conducted on 30 koalas in the Moreton Bay region.

"Vaccinated koalas were 50% less likely than the unvaccinated cohort to contract chlamydia," Mr Polkinghorne said.

"It's not complete protection, but the numbers are in the right direction for that."

The Australian koala population has declined by up to 80% in some areas over the past 20 years, with a chlamydia epidemic causing blindness and infertility in the animals.

Koalas are now listed as a vulnerable species.

Mr Polkinghorne said the vaccine showed potential to restore population numbers.

"We've got enough evidence that this is a tool that should now be used for koala conservation," Mr Polkinghorne said.

University of the Sunshine Coast Professor of Microbiology Peter Timms said the data collected by the researchers was also receiving international attention for what it meant for human chlamydia research.

"We're going to provide information on what the vaccine can do that will directly feed back into human chlamydial vaccines," Prof Timms said.

"Human and koala chlamydia are different strains but the same sort of things happen."

The researchers will seek funding from the State Government to continue trialling the vaccine.

Their presentation was made to the biennial Australian Chlamydia Conference held at USC during the week.

Topics:  chlamydia koalas research science

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