New Protein Subunit Vaccine Offers Koalas Protection from Chlamydia

Farmscape for June 9, 2023

Full Interview 6:14 Listen

A vaccine developed by Australia’s University of the Sunshine Coast and the University of Saskatchewan’s Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization is helping protect Australia’s koala population from chlamydia. Chlamydia is a bacterial infection that affects several species including koalas. Dr. Volker Gerdts, the Director and CEO of the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization at  the University of Saskatchewan, says this disease causes huge problems in the koala population.

Quote-Dr. Volker Gerdts-Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization:
In koalas it’s transmitted through direct contact, both sexually as well as contact between the mother and the offspring.
The main complications that we’re seeing in koalas are infertility, blindness and then to some extent more systemic manifestations like kidney failure for example and sometimes also some intestinal problems. The koala population in Australia is declining and it’s already declining because of a number of other factors, loss of habitat for example, road accidents and now also infertility which really brings koalas to the brink of extinction. So, this is what we call a subunit protein vaccine. The antigen, the part of the pathogen that is being recognized by the immune system, in this case is a bacterial protein which was designed and manufactured by our Australian colleagues and it’s formulated with an adjuvant, a molecule that enhances the immune response and this adjuvant was developed here at VIDO as part of a larger research program that we had a few years ago on adjuvants. This is really the combination of formulating the adjuvant with the protein together that now stimulates the immune system to make an effective immune response against this important disease.

Dr. Gerdts says a number of smaller scale trials have been performed already and the vaccine looks very promising so the goal now is to go into larger trials, ideally trying to vaccinate the whole population of koalas as quickly as possible.

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