Treating a koala-chlamydia epidemic | Popular Science



KatieDahlhausen, biophysicsPh D. prospect at UC Davis

In2015, I went to Australia to gather koala poo, which can teach us about their intricate microbiome. Bacteria in their guts break down harmful tannins in the eucalyptus leaves they consume. We believe one factor the children consume their mamas’ poo is to get microorganisms that will provide their own system toxin-degrading powers. But I wished to know for sure.

An animal stress of chlamydia contaminates numerous Australian koalas. When I got to the wildlife health center, vets were treating them with prescription antibiotics, however they were still ill. Some had actually stopped consuming and were running out. Their poo, which is usually the shapes and size of chocolate-covered almonds, looked truly dry, like the things at the bottom of a Cheetos bag. We thought the drugs may be harming their gut plants– which might avoid them from handing down essential germs to their children.

Some koalas had actually endured treatment, and I quickly found that they had one specific microorganism in their poop: Lonepinella koalarum, a possible tannin degrader. It was missing in all of the marsupials that passed away. While other germs likewise break down toxic substances, this one appeared connected to the animals’ fates.

To understand definitively whether L. koalarum has tannin-processing genes, I have to series that microorganism’s genome. If prescription antibiotics are eliminating a microorganism essential for eucalyptus food digestion, that might press scientists to discover another treatment for koala chlamydia.

As informed to Jessica Boddy

This short article was initially released in the Summer 2018 Life/Death problem ofPopular Science.