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Wilson D.P.,University of New South Wales | Craig A.P.,University of New South Wales | Hanger J.,Endeavour Veterinary Ecology Pty Ltd | Timms P.,University of The Sunshine Coast | Timms P.,Queensland University of Technology
Journal of Wildlife Diseases | Year: 2015

Koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) populations in the wild are in sharp decline in Australia due to deforestation, road accidents, dog attacks, and disease from infection with sexually transmitted Chlamydia spp. Severely diseased koalas that are captured are euthanized for humane reasons because antibiotics are not effective. Paradoxically, we propose that euthanizing more koalas could help to increase koala population numbers. We investigated the potential impact of systematically euthanizing diseased koalas. Using data from a well-studied koala population, and an individual-based computer simulation model, we predict that such a program would result in a larger population of koalas after 7 yr than would exist without the program. If terminally diseased and sterile koalas are euthanized and other infected captured koalas are given antibiotics, chlamydial infection could be eliminated and population growth observed after 4 yr. The practical implementation of such a program would be facilitated with further development of tools to diagnose infection and internal disease in the field. © Wildlife Disease Association 2015.

Hobbs M.,Australian Museum Research Institute | Pavasovic A.,Queensland University of Technology | King A.G.,Australian Museum Research Institute | Prentis P.J.,Queensland University of Technology | And 12 more authors.
BMC Genomics | Year: 2014

Background: The koala, Phascolarctos cinereus, is a biologically unique and evolutionarily distinct Australian arboreal marsupial. The goal of this study was to sequence the transcriptome from several tissues of two geographically separate koalas, and to create the first comprehensive catalog of annotated transcripts for this species, enabling detailed analysis of the unique attributes of this threatened native marsupial, including infection by the koala retrovirus. Results: RNA-Seq data was generated from a range of tissues from one male and one female koala and assembled de novo into transcripts using Velvet-Oases. Transcript abundance in each tissue was estimated. Transcripts were searched for likely protein-coding regions and a non-redundant set of 117,563 putative protein sequences was produced. In similarity searches there were 84,907 (72%) sequences that aligned to at least one sequence in the NCBI nr protein database. The best alignments were to sequences from other marsupials. After applying a reciprocal best hit requirement of koala sequences to those from tammar wallaby, Tasmanian devil and the gray short-tailed opossum, we estimate that our transcriptome dataset represents approximately 15,000 koala genes. The marsupial alignment information was used to look for potential gene duplications and we report evidence for copy number expansion of the alpha amylase gene, and of an aldehyde reductase gene. Koala retrovirus (KoRV) transcripts were detected in the transcriptomes. These were analysed in detail and the structure of the spliced envelope gene transcript was determined. There was appreciable sequence diversity within KoRV, with 233 sites in the KoRV genome showing small insertions/deletions or single nucleotide polymorphisms. Both koalas had sequences from the KoRV-A subtype, but the male koala transcriptome has, in addition, sequences more closely related to the KoRV-B subtype. This is the first report of a KoRV-B-like sequence in a wild population. Conclusions: This transcriptomic dataset is a useful resource for molecular genetic studies of the koala, for evolutionary genetic studies of marsupials, for validation and annotation of the koala genome sequence, and for investigation of koala retrovirus. Annotated transcripts can be browsed and queried at http://koalagenome.org. © 2014 Hobbs et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

Tribe A.,University of Queensland | Hanger J.,Endeavour Veterinary Ecology Pty Ltd | McDonald I.J.,University of Queensland | Loader J.,Endeavour Veterinary Ecology Pty Ltd | And 3 more authors.
Animals | Year: 2014

Traditionally, culling has been the expedient, most common, and in many cases, the only tool used to control free-ranging kangaroo populations. We applied a reproductive control program to a population of eastern grey kangaroos confined to a golf course in South East Queensland. The program aimed to reduce fecundity sufficiently for the population to decrease over time so that overgrazing of the fairways and the frequency of human-animal conflict situations were minimised. In 2003, 92% of the female kangaroos above 5 kg bodyweight were implanted with the GnRH agonist deslorelin after darting with a dissociative anaesthetic. In 2007, 86% of the females above 5 kg were implanted with deslorelin and also 87% of the males above 5 kg were sterilised by either orchidectomy or vasectomy. In 2005, 2008 and 2009, the population was censused to assess the effect of each treatment. The 2003 deslorelin program resulted in effective zero population growth for approximately 2.5 years. The combined deslorelin-surgery program in 2007 reduced the birth rate from 0.3 to 0.06%/year for 16 months, resulting in a 27% population reduction by November 2009. The results were consistent with implants conferring contraception to 100% of implanted females for at least 12 months. The iatrogenic mortality rates for each program were 10.5% and 4.9%, respectively, with 50% of all mortalities due to darting-related injuries, exertional myopathy/hyperthermia or recovery misadventure. The short term sexual and agonistic behaviour of the males was assessed for the 2007 program: no significant changes were seen in adult males given the vasectomy procedure, while sexual behaviours’ were decreased in adult males given the orchidectomy procedure. It is concluded that female reproduction was effectively controlled by implantation with deslorrelin and male reproductive behaviour was reduced by orchidectomy, which together achieved population control. © 2014 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

Khan S.A.,Queensland University of Technology | Khan S.A.,Chittagong Veterinary and Animal Sciences University | Desclozeaux M.,University of The Sunshine Coast | Waugh C.,University of The Sunshine Coast | And 9 more authors.
PLoS ONE | Year: 2016

Developing a vaccine against Chlamydia is key to combating widespread mortalities and morbidities associated with this infection in koalas (Phascolarctos cinereus). In previous studies, we have shown that two or three doses of a Recombinant Major Outer Membrane Protein (rMOMP) antigen-based vaccine, combined with immune stimulating complex (ISC) adjuvant, results in strong cellular and humoral immune responses in koalas. We have also separately evaluated a single dose vaccine, utilising a tri-adjuvant formula that comprises polyphosphazine based poly I: C and host defense peptides, with the same antigen. This formulation also produced strong cellular and humoral immune responses in captive koalas. In this current study, we directly compared the host immune responses of two sub-groups of wild Chlamydia negative koalas in one population vaccinated with the rMOMP protein antigen and adjuvanted with either the ISC or tri-adjuvant formula. Overall, both adjuvants produced strong Chlamydia-specific cellular (IFN-γ and IL-17A) responses in circulating PBMCs as well as MOMP-specific and functional, in vitro neutralising antibodies. While the immune responses were similar, there were adjuvant-specific immune differences between the two adjuvants, particularly in relation to the specificity of the MOMP epitope antibody responses. © 2016 Khan et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Khan S.A.,Queensland University of Technology | Khan S.A.,Chittagong Veterinary and Animal Sciences University | Polkinghorne A.,Queensland University of Technology | Polkinghorne A.,University of The Sunshine Coast | And 6 more authors.
Vaccine | Year: 2016

The development of a vaccine is a key strategy to combat the widespread and debilitating effects of chlamydial infection in koalas. One such vaccine in development uses recombinant chlamydial major outer membrane protein (rMOMP) as an antigen and has shown promising results in several koala trials. Previous chlamydial vaccine studies, primarily in the mouse model, suggest that both cell-mediated and antibody responses will be required for adequate protection. Recently, the important protective role of antibodies has been highlighted. In our current study, we conducted a detailed analysis of the antibody-mediated immune response in koalas that are either (a) naturally-infected, and/or (b) had received an rMOMP vaccine. Firstly, we observed that naturally-infected koalas had very low levels of Chlamydia pecorum-specific neutralising antibodies. A strong correlation between low IgG total titers/neutralising antibody levels, and higher C. pecorum infection load was also observed in these naturally-infected animals. In vaccinated koalas, we showed that the vaccine was able to boost the humoral immune response by inducing strong levels of C. pecorum-specific neutralising antibodies. A detailed characterisation of the MOMP epitope response was also performed in naturally-infected and vaccinated koalas using a PepScan epitope approach. This analysis identified unique sets of MOMP epitope antibodies between naturally-infected non-protected and diseased koalas, versus vaccinated koalas, with the latter group of animals producing a unique set of specific epitope-directed antibodies that we demonstrated were responsible for the in vitro neutralisation activity. Together, these results show the importance of antibodies in chlamydial infection and immunity following vaccination in the koala. © 2015 Elsevier Ltd.

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