The first Australian trials have started of a vaccine to prevent koalas from contracting and spreading the deadly sexually transmitted disease, chlamydia.
The trials—supervised by Prof Peter Timms and Prof Ken Beagley from Queensland University of Technology (QUT)’s Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation—have been undertaken safely both in healthy koalas and koalas that already have chlamydial disease. All vaccinated koalas developed a good immune response to the anti-chlamydia vaccine, which shows great promise of making a significant impact on the disease in the near future.
Chlamydia is a major threat to the continued survival of koalas. Almost all populations in Australia are affected by the disease. It is a significant cause of infertility, urinary tract infections, and inflammation in the lining of the eye which often leads to blindness.
Koala numbers are declining across virtually its whole range. In the Koala Coast region of southeast Queensland in 2008 it was estimated that 2332 koalas had been lost in a three-year monitoring period. That represented a 51 per cent decrease.
By studying chlamydial disease in koalas, QUT researchers hope to understand the condition better in general. They believe their work may also hold the key to developing a successful vaccine for use against the human sexually transmitted disease Chlamydia trachomatis, a major cause of infertility in women.
Photo: Professor Peter Timms is trialling a Chlamydia vaccine for koalas.
New glasses that slow the progression of short-sightedness or myopia are now available. The glasses which incorporate a novel lens design could potentially benefit some of the 3.6 million Australians with myopia and hundreds of millions of people worldwide.
Until now, correcting myopia has relied on measuring the clarity of vision at the very centre of the retina. Corrective lenses were designed to provide the wearer with clear central vision but did nothing for peripheral vision. Studies have now shown that short-sightedness progressively worsens in spite of correction using these traditional lenses.
The University of Melbourne’s Departments of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and Pharmacology have over recent years identified cone shell venom as a potential treatment for chronic pain in humans.
Researchers continue to develop the research into a commercialised product. One of the venom peptides identified is currently in phase two of clinical trials.
Most people recover from whiplash injuries within the first few months. However, some people have long term pain—lasting months or years. Until now there has been no way of diagnosing these more severe cases.
New research suggests that fat deposits in the neck muscles are the key.
“We’ve found that people with long term injury have large amounts of fat infiltration in their neck muscles,” says Dr James Elliott from the University of Queensland (and former US professional baseball player). “Something is causing that difference, and it isn’t their body weight,” he says.
What if the very thing that assists a fetus to grow in the womb could also prevent disease in a fully grown adult?
Monash Institute of Medical Research scientists have discovered that stem cells from the womb have the potential to treat inflammatory diseases such as lung fibrosis and liver cirrhosis in both children and adults.