New test quickly diagnoses chlamydia in koalas

koala chlamydia

A new DNA test to detect chlamydia infection in koalas which can be run in the field and gives on-the-spot results within 30 minutes has been developed in a research collaboration between Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and University of Queensland (UQ) researchers.

Disease caused by chlamydia impacts as many as 90 per cent of koalas in areas of Australia, causing blindness, serious urinary tract infections and infertility, and if not treated can be fatal.

Current standard laboratory testing for koala chlamydia takes several days, whereas the new quick-turnaround diagnostic test means no delay in starting infected koalas on treatment.

The new test—which can be read about in a recent publication of MicrobiologyOpenhas been trialled successfully at Currumbin Wildlife Hospital on the Gold Coast.

The test uses the innovative LAMP (loop mediated isothermal amplification) technology and targets a specific sequence of DNA in the chlamydia bacteria.

The test detects the most common chlamydia strain that affects koalas, Chlamydia pecorum. 

UQ PhD student Lyndal Hulse said DNA testing for chlamydia in koalas is usually performed in a diagnostic laboratory using a molecular test known as PCR (polymerase chain reaction), which is the standard due to its reliability, sensitivity and specificity.

“However, this is time-consuming and wildlife veterinarians and koala ecologists have to wait days or longer after they have sent in their samples to get the results,” she said.

“We wanted to design a test that was equally reliable and as accurate as PCR, but one that was more cost-effective, with simplistic swab preparation, that could be done at the point of care and provide on-the-spot results.

“The LAMP method provided that opportunity.” 

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