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News Article

Rapid DNA test to diagnose Chlamydia infection in koalas

New test can be performed in the field on freshly collected samples that require minimal processing

A 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.

Chlamydiosis 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 takes several days, whereas the new quick-turnaround diagnostic test means no delay in starting infected koalas on treatment.

The test uses LAMP (loop mediated isothermal amplification) technology and targets a specific sequence of DNA in Chlamydia pecorum, the most pathogenic and prevalent bacterium affecting koalas. 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.

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 PCR test, 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.

Professor Beagley said the LAMP koala chlamydia test was extremely sensitive. "When 43 clinical swabs were tested, the LAMP test results matched those obtained through the PCR method," he said.

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.

Article: Hulse, L.S., McDonald, S., Johnston, S.D., Beagley, K.W. (2019). Rapid point-of-care diagnostics for the detection of Chlamydia pecorum in koalas (Phascolarctos cinereus) using loop-mediated isothermal amplification without nucleic acid purification. MicrobiologyOpen, e916, doi: 10.1002/mbo3.916

Article details

  • Date
  • 28 August 2019
  • Source
  • Queensland University of Technology
  • Subject(s)
  • Zoo-, Wild-, Laboratory-, and Other Animals