World News

Koalas to be Vaccinated Against Chlamydia

Queensland’s koalas are undergoing a vaccination program to protect them against chlamydia, a bacterial infection that can lead to blindness when it affects their eyes. 

Chlamydia, which is a common sexually transmitted infection in humans, is a significant cause of death among koalas, with about 20 percent of koalas in Brisbane contracting the disease. Other major threats to koalas include car accidents and dog attacks. 

Sean Fitzgibbon, an ecologist from the University of Queensland, described the effects of chlamydia on koalas as a painful death, with symptoms such as inflammation of the eyes and bladder issues leading to incontinence. 

Professor Joerg Henning from the University of Queensland School of Veterinary Science reported 943 chlamydia-related koala deaths from 2018 to 2023.

Signs of chlamydia infection in koalas include inflamed eyes, brown staining, and wet fur around the rump, while the disease can often be asymptomatic. 

A recent study published in the Journal of Virology suggested that a virus similar to HIV could be responsible for spreading chlamydia among koalas. 

Although captive koalas can sometimes be treated for chlamydia, the recovery process is slow, according to Mr. Fitzgibbon. In Queensland, koalas are mainly found in South East Queensland, where they are increasingly competing for space with a growing human population. 

The vaccination program for koalas is part of a two-year initiative led by scientists from the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) to protect the health of the koala population and promote its growth. 

QUT School of Biomedical Science professor Ken Beagley emphasized the importance of addressing disease as a critical issue for koalas, alongside habitat destruction, dog attacks, and car strikes. 

The Queensland government recently announced five new projects aimed at enhancing the health of koalas as part of the federal government’s Saving Koalas Fund, which allocates funds to support the recovery and conservation of koalas and their habitats. 

Brisbane’s Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner expressed a vision for Brisbane to become the “koala capital of Australia” and highlighted the council’s efforts to reintroduce koalas into bushland areas across the city, with successful population increases observed in certain regions. 

This report includes contributions from AAP. 

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