New rapid DNA test to diagnose chlamydia infection in koalas

August 20, 2019

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 researchers from Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and University of Queensland (UQ) in Brisbane, Australia.Research into the development and validation of the LAMP test was conducted by UQ PhD student Lyndal Hulse, with supervisors QUT Immunology Professor Ken Beagley, who first proposed using LAMP technology to develop a koala chlamydia test, and UQ Zoologist Associate Professor Stephen Johnston. Their report on development and evaluation of the test has been published in the journal MicrobiologyOpen.

The test detects the most common chlamydia strain that affects koalas, Chlamydia pecorum. Swabs of the urogenital tract and eyes are collected and the test is run on the OptiGene Genie platform. The equipment is distributed in Australia by GeneWorks, which assisted with the research project.

Ms 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."

Professor Beagley said the LAMP koala chlamydia test was extremely sensitive, successfully detecting even small quantities of the bacteria present.

"When 43 clinical swabs were tested, the LAMP test results matched those obtained through the PCR method," he said.

"Lyndal has also developed a range of LAMP assays for other koala pathogens, such as Chlamydia pneumoniae and Bordetella bronchiseptica which cause respiratory disease and pneumonia in koalas, so these could in the future be incorporated with the Chlamydia pecorum assay into a single panel test."

Associate Professor Johnston said the test was fulfilling a need in the fight against the spread of chlamydia among koala populations.

"Koalas can often show no obvious clinical signs of chlamydia, yet they can be highly infectious carrying a heavy bacterial load," he said.

"This test has such a rapid turnaround time that it means decisions about treatment can be made quickly. And the Genie testing equipment is compact, portable and battery-powered so you can run the test anywhere - for ecologists out in the field it would be simple to set up the required equipment."

Currumbin Wildlife Hospital general manager and senior vet Michael Pyne said 500 injured, orphaned and sick koalas were brought to the hospital last year, and 80 per cent of them tested positive for chlamydia.

"Chlamydia is so common it is crucial that we test all the koalas, and this test is not only quick, it gives us a semi-quantitative measure to indicate how badly infected the koala is so we can make the appropriate treatment decisions," he said.

"It's a minimum of four weeks of antibiotics for chlamydia, so the sooner we can start treatment the better. And with this test we can monitor the koalas and easily test them again to make sure they are clear of infection before they are released back in the wild."
The researchers' study was funded by grants from the Queensland Government Koala Research Grant Program and Community Sustainability Action Grants program.

The research team is working with GeneWorks on simplified protocols to make the chlamydia test available for use by anyone caring for koalas, irrespective of whether they have scientific or laboratory training.

Queensland University of Technology

Related Science Articles from Brightsurf:

75 science societies urge the education department to base Title IX sexual harassment regulations on evidence and science
The American Educational Research Association (AERA) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) today led 75 scientific societies in submitting comments on the US Department of Education's proposed changes to Title IX regulations.

Science/Science Careers' survey ranks top biotech, biopharma, and pharma employers
The Science and Science Careers' 2018 annual Top Employers Survey polled employees in the biotechnology, biopharmaceutical, pharmaceutical, and related industries to determine the 20 best employers in these industries as well as their driving characteristics.

Science in the palm of your hand: How citizen science transforms passive learners
Citizen science projects can engage even children who previously were not interested in science.

Applied science may yield more translational research publications than basic science
While translational research can happen at any stage of the research process, a recent investigation of behavioral and social science research awards granted by the NIH between 2008 and 2014 revealed that applied science yielded a higher volume of translational research publications than basic science, according to a study published May 9, 2018 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Xueying Han from the Science and Technology Policy Institute, USA, and colleagues.

Prominent academics, including Salk's Thomas Albright, call for more science in forensic science
Six scientists who recently served on the National Commission on Forensic Science are calling on the scientific community at large to advocate for increased research and financial support of forensic science as well as the introduction of empirical testing requirements to ensure the validity of outcomes.

World Science Forum 2017 Jordan issues Science for Peace Declaration
On behalf of the coordinating organizations responsible for delivering the World Science Forum Jordan, the concluding Science for Peace Declaration issued at the Dead Sea represents a global call for action to science and society to build a future that promises greater equality, security and opportunity for all, and in which science plays an increasingly prominent role as an enabler of fair and sustainable development.

PETA science group promotes animal-free science at society of toxicology conference
The PETA International Science Consortium Ltd. is presenting two posters on animal-free methods for testing inhalation toxicity at the 56th annual Society of Toxicology (SOT) meeting March 12 to 16, 2017, in Baltimore, Maryland.

Citizen Science in the Digital Age: Rhetoric, Science and Public Engagement
James Wynn's timely investigation highlights scientific studies grounded in publicly gathered data and probes the rhetoric these studies employ.

Science/Science Careers' survey ranks top biotech, pharma, and biopharma employers
The Science and Science Careers' 2016 annual Top Employers Survey polled employees in the biotechnology, biopharmaceutical, pharmaceutical, and related industries to determine the 20 best employers in these industries as well as their driving characteristics.

Three natural science professors win TJ Park Science Fellowship
Professor Jung-Min Kee (Department of Chemistry, UNIST), Professor Kyudong Choi (Department of Mathematical Sciences, UNIST), and Professor Kwanpyo Kim (Department of Physics, UNIST) are the recipients of the Cheong-Am (TJ Park) Science Fellowship of the year 2016.

Read More: Science News and Science Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to