VIDO led technology a key part of the vaccine protecting koalas from chlamydia

May 19, 2023

An adjuvant developed by the University of Saskatchewan’s Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO) and partners is a key component in a vaccine to protect koalas from chlamydia. The adjuvant improves the effectiveness of the vaccine by improving the koala immune response.

Koalas are a national symbol of Australia’s wildlife, and their numbers are declining in part to chlamydia infection. This disease causes blindness, infertility, and is a major cause of death in koalas.

To protect koala health and prevent further population decline, scientists from Australia’s University of the Sunshine Coast (UniSC) partnered with VIDO to develop a vaccine to protect these animals. The multi-year collaboration recently reached a major milestone with the first wild koala vaccinated.

Dr. Sam Phillips, UniSC microbiologist and project lead, stated in a UniSC web story “the findings from this study will inform future modelling and koala management plans as to the level of intervention required to rescue at-risk koala populations for chlamydial infection and disease… We’ve shown the vaccine induces a strong immune response and we have strong data about the protection from disease and death.”

The vaccine was previously tested in koalas brought to wildlife rescue centers for other afflictions and is now being used in a field trial with wild koalas. The UniSC team plans to vaccinate and monitor a koala population in the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales, Australia.

“It is gratifying to see our innovations have such wide-reaching applications and benefits towards protecting human and animal health around the world,” said Dr. Volker Gerdts, VIDO director and CEO.

UniSC developed the antigen (a chlamydia-specific part of the vaccine), which is formulated with the adjuvant developed by VIDO, the University of British Columbia, the International Vaccine Institute, and Dalhousie University as part of the original Grand Challenges in Global Health Initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

This adjuvant has been tested in vaccines against other pathogens including SARS-CoV-2 and high pathogenicity avian influenza and has potential wide-reaching applications that could project human and animal health across the globe.