Vaccine could end koala-killing chlamydia virus

FOUR koalas rescued from across the Northern Rivers are participating in a groundbreaking trial of a vaccine aimed at wiping out the chlamydia virus that is decimating the population.

Friends of the Koala president Lorraine Vass said as half of the known koala mortalities on the Northern Rivers were due to Chlamydia, the group was very excited to be asked to participate in the trial.

"Chlamydia is a huge problem on the Northern Rivers so an effective vaccine can't come soon enough for our carers," she said.

The vaccine is being developed by Professor Peter Timms and a team of researchers from the University of the Sunshine Coast.

Mrs Vass said after jumping through a few hoops to get a NSW Scientific Licence so animals from the Northern Rivers could participate in the trial, as of late August, the first Koala with Chlamydia began to participate.

"Cato, who was rescued from Fawcetts Plains Rd out near Kyogle, has had his first monthly check-up by Dr Ray Austin of Lismore's Keen St veterinary clinic.

"Since then we have had three other koalas get involved; Elmo who was rescued at The Risk, Knox who was found at Lindendale and Perry from Goonengerry, who all have early stage Chlamydia."

An additional four Koalas, including Buddy, who was rescued from Skyline Rd, Goonellabah, are the control group participating in the trial, who are getting treatment for Chlamydia by conventional methods.

Both groups will be monitored over the coming months by Dr Austin, who reports his findings back to Prof Timms.

To monitor the vaccine's effectiveness once koalas are returned to the wild, Friends of the Koala is fundraising to purchase satellite tracking collars and fund recapturing events.

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