Scientists were able to map out the Koala’s genome, which means they may now have a better chance of developing vaccines that can treat Australia’s symbolic animal suffering from the sexually transmitted disease chlamydia.
This latest development lets scientists evade aggressive procedures that include looking at their biology. Wildlife groups believe there are between 80,000 and 180,000 of the marsupials.
Koala Genome Consortium researchers, along with a team of both Australia and international scientists, said they were able to sequence over 3.4 billion base pairs and over 26,000 genes in their genome – a bit bigger than the human one.
University of Sydney Professor of Comparative Genomics Katherine Belov said they are in good position to develop better vaccines to treat the chlamydia. The research was published in the Nature Genetics journal.
Untreated chlamydia infections can cause severe bladder inflammation, blindness, infertility and death. However, treating the koalas with antibiotics can lead to an inability of the koalas ingesting the eucalyptus leaves, which is a key part of their diet.
Belov said time would tell why some of the koalas seem to recover while other koalas don’t. This will help in the development of therapies that will treat the beloved Australian animals.
In 2012, Australia classified the koalas as being a vulnerable species, which means conservation measures are being used to protect the animals.
Written by Mark Riegel, MD
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