The Ceva Wildlife Research Fund has made a donation to support the development of a new vaccine that is seen as a major breakthrough in protecting the iconic Australian koala population.
The Australian federal government listed koalas as an endangered species in February 2022 due to habitat loss, which has impacted the population between 30% and 50%. The widespread problem of chlamydia infection among the reduced population of the marsupials is causing blindness, infertility and sometimes death and thus hampering the population dynamic.
The donation will fund trials required to obtain a supply permit for the vaccine from the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medical Authority (APVMA). The program is designed to demonstrate that the vaccine, to be used in the field with wild koala populations, is as effective as the vaccine used in the initial trials on animals in captivity, which proved a high level of efficacy in treating chlamydia in koalas.
The Ceva Wildlife Research Fund is also contributing to the transfer of the vaccine from the field trial stage to standard production in a GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) certified environment which will result in sustainable and sufficient scale supplies being made available to immunize koalas in wildlife centres throughout Australia.
”The only way to get real control over chlamydia in koalas is to prevent it and they’ve shown that this vaccine is effective at prevention so we need to obtain the permit if it is to be used more widely and this is a way we can have a real impact on the disease incidence in the population and protect the koala from potentially becoming extinct.”Said Dr. Finola McConaghy, Technical Service Manager at Ceva Australia, who is working with the Ceva Wildlife Research Fund.
Peter Timms, Microbiology Professor at the University of the Sunshine Coast in Australia and koala conservationist said: “We have had support from many quarters including Government money, help from wildlife hospitals and different research groups but there are also companies that are important in this, and they are helping us, not just financially but with their specialist knowledge to get this vaccine to the end stage and help many populations of wild koalas that are currently under threat.”
Ceva Santé Animale established the Ceva Wildlife Research Fund as a charity to support and carry out any activity of general interest involving the setting up of new programs and support for existing projects of a scientific nature in the field of animal health for the benefit of wildlife, including the preservation of its biodiversity, its interactions with domestic animals and zoonotic risks. This endowment fund, the only one of its kind, will make it possible to finance applied research projects, the results of which will be rapidly observable, with deadlines of three or five years maximum. The Ceva Wildlife Research Fund thus contributes to the preservation of wildlife health, a field of animal health that is under-invested because it has no business model.
Ceva’s Australian division based in Glenorie near Sydney has long played an active role in the treatment of chlamydia in koalas. It was the only company manufacturing Chloramphenicol, an antibiotic that was highly effective as a treatment. As part of its policy of reducing antibiotic use, the company ceased production of the drug in 2014, however due to demand from wildlife vets around Australia for help in treating koalas, the company agreed to produce limited batches until a vaccine was produced to prevent the disease occurring in wild koalas and those in captivity or being treated in animal hospitals.
Wildlife veterinarian, Dr. Claude Lacasse, of Brisbane RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), who received regular supplies of the antibiotic and has also been involved in the testing of the latest vaccine, said: “I think the koalas would have really struggled without Ceva’s intervention, which was a lifesaver, so the fact the Ceva Wildlife Research Fund is now getting involved with registering the vaccine to be used on wild koalas is even better so that we can get more of the product that everyone will be able to use.”
“This Fund has a unique position by combining support on applied scientific actions and helping to create specific competencies which can contribute to operational implementation. The Ceva Wildlife Research Fund is proud to donate to and support this project, which started several years ago, to protect an emblem of biodiversity. Professor Timms and his team, together with all the local actors, have taken huge steps and we thank them for their long-term efforts. As the program progresses to the next stage, we also know that complementary actions will be required with the use of the innovative vaccine and the Ceva Wildlife Research Fund will be pleased to contribute as one of the stakeholders.”Dr. Pierre-Marie Borne, Director of Ceva Wildlife Research Fund