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Scientists successfully test 'breakthrough' vaccine for koala chlamydia

Australian scientists have successfully treated wild koalas for chlamydia, thanks to a "breakthrough" vaccine, AFP reports.

Microbiologists from the University of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia, spent five years creating the trial vaccine, which they have now successfully tested. The disease is "ravaging" Australia's koala population, AFP notes, but the new vaccine may be able to save the koalas that are left.

The scientists treated 30 koalas with the vaccine and studied their health alongside 30 unvaccinated koalas. The 30 vaccinated included both healthy koalas and those already infected with chlamydia. Among those vaccinated, koalas that were carrying the chlamydia strain didn't develop the disease, and those who showed chlamydia symptoms, such as eye infections, saw improvement as well.

Koalas are classified as a "vulnerable species," according to the Australian government. Recent estimates suggest there are as few as 43,000 koalas in the wild, but there were more than 10 million in the 18th century. The scientists hope to continue testing the trial vaccine, including the "possible vaccination of entire communities of koalas," AFP reports.