How Koalas With an S.T.D. Could Help Humanity – The New York Times

These parallels have actually led Dr. Timms to argue that koalas might serve as a “missing link” in the look for a human vaccine. “The koala is more than simply an expensive animal model,” he said. “It actually is really helpful for human research studies.”
An ancient curse
When koalas initially got chlamydia, no one understands how or. The curse is at least centuries old.
In 1798, European explorers reached the mountains of New South Wales and spied an animal that defied description: ear-tufted and spoon-nosed, it peered down stoically from the crooks of towering eucalyptus trees. They compared it to the monkey, the wombat and the sloth. They chose “native bear” and gave it the genus name Phascolarctos (from the Greek for “leather pouch” and “bear”), generating the misunderstanding that the koala bear is, in fact, a bear.
” The graveness of the visage,” The Sydney Gazette wrote in 1803, “would appear to indicate a more than ordinary part of animal sagacity.”
In the late 19th century, the Australian biologist Ellis Troughton kept in mind that the “quaint and lovable koala” was likewise particularly vulnerable to illness. The animals struggled with an eye ailment comparable to pink eye, which he blamed for waves of koala die-offs in the 1890s and 1900s. At the same time, the anatomist J.P. Hill found that koalas from Queensland and New South Wales typically had ovaries and uteruses riddled with cysts. Many contemporary scientists now think those koalas were probably afflicted with the exact same scourge: chlamydia.
Koalas today have much more to stress over. Pet dogs, negligent drivers and, just recently, rampant bushfires have actually driven their numbers down so far that conservation groups are requiring koalas to be listed as endangered. Chlamydia still rules supreme: In parts of Queensland, the heart of the epidemic, the illness assisted fuel an 80 percent decrease over two decades.
The disease is also the one that usually sends koalas to the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital, the countrys busiest wildlife medical facility, situated 30 miles north of Endeavour. “The figures are 40 percent chlamydia, 30 percent vehicles, 10 percent pets,” stated Dr. Rosemary Booth, the hospitals director. “And then the rest is a fascinating assortment of what difficulty you can get into when you have a little brain and your environments been fragmented.”

These parallels have led Dr. Timms to argue that koalas could serve as a “missing link” in the search for a human vaccine. “The koala is more than simply an elegant animal model,” he stated. They settled on “native bear” and provided it the genus name Phascolarctos (from the Greek for “leather pouch” and “bear”), spawning the misconception that the koala bear is, in reality, a bear.