New treatments should speed things up for ailing Koalas
New treatments should speed things up for ailing Koalas

The ‘Genie’ helping to save koalas from deadly disease

SICK koalas will spend less time in care before having to be released, thanks to the latest tool in the fight against chlamydia.

Yesterday researchers unveiled a tool kit, nicknamed 'the Genie,' which can detect the most common strains of the contagious disease within 30 minutes.

Their findings were published in the journal MicrobiologyOpen.

Currumbin Wildlife Hospital senior vet Dr Michael Pyne said their clinic had been using the donated Genie for about a year and it had not only shortened time in care for sick koalas, but meant they could be treated faster.

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Currumbin Wildlife Hospital general manager and senior vet Dr Michael Pyne swabbing a koala to later test for chlamydia. Picture: Jerad Williams
Currumbin Wildlife Hospital general manager and senior vet Dr Michael Pyne swabbing a koala to later test for chlamydia. Picture: Jerad Williams
Dr Pyne using the new testing equipment. Picture: Jerad Williams
Dr Pyne using the new testing equipment. Picture: Jerad Williams

It also saved the charity time and money.

They take in about 500 koalas a year and most of them - about 80 per cent - suffer from the potentially fatal disease. It costs the clinic $6000 a day to open its doors to sick and injured wildlife.

"It speeds up both ends," Dr Pyne said.

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Meet the Genie. Picture: Jerad Williams
Meet the Genie. Picture: Jerad Williams
QUT Immunology Professor Ken Beagley and UQ PHD student Lyndal Hulse. Picture: Jerad Williams
QUT Immunology Professor Ken Beagley and UQ PHD student Lyndal Hulse. Picture: Jerad Williams

"We now know straight away (when they have the disease) and then, have we cleared it or not yet?

"We used researchers at university to run the tests … but even the best case scenario is a week (for results), now it's 30 minutes."

The test was developed by University of Queensland PhD student Lyndal Hulse, Queensland University of Technology Immunology Professor Ken Beagley and UQ Zoologist Associate Professor Stephen Johnston.

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It uses LAMP (loop mediated isothermal amplification) technology to check swabs, which is days faster than the usual method using PCR (polymerase chain reaction).

"We wanted to design a test that was equally reliable and as accurate as PCR, but one that was more cost-effective, with simplistic swab preparation, that could be done at the point-of-care and provide on-the-spot results," said Ms Hulse.

The Genie is also portable, making it useful in infield studies.

The test could also be adapted in the future to detect other diseases across a range of animals and wildlife.



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