Save the Tasmanian Devil Program moves closer to immunised devil trial
Field research to test a possible immunisation against Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD) was announced on Wednesday 25 February by the Minister for Environment, Parks and Heritage, Mathew Groom in conjunction with Professor Greg Woods from the University of Tasmania's Menzies Institute for Medical Research. A copy of the joint media statement is available here
The latest research by Professor Greg Woods Menzies' devil research team shows encouraging evidence for the potential development of a vaccine using dead DFTD cells to trigger an immune response in devils. By growing a large number of cells in the laboratory, shattering them into pieces and mixing them with a substance to induce inflammation when injected, the team were able to activate the devil's immune system to produce antibodies against the cancer cells.
Despite this success, developing and testing a vaccine can be a long process. The next step is to undertake testing in the field. This work is being undertaken as a collaborative project between Menzies and the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program under the Wild Devil Recovery program, and aims to test the immunisation protocol as a tool in ensuring the devil's long term survival in the wild.
This work is possible now that the survival of the species in captivity is assured, with a sustainable and genetically diverse Insurance Population of Tasmanian devils being maintained. The priority for the Program has shifted to re-establishing healthy populations in the wild. This is why the work of partners such as Menzies is so important as the Program moves towards wild devil recovery.
The laboratory results have just been published by the Menzies devil research team in the international journal Vaccine in a paper entitled, "Evidence for induction of humoral and cytotoxicimmune responses
against devil facial tumour disease cells in Tasmanian devils
(Sarcophilus harrissii) immunized with kill cell preparations" by A.
Kreiss, G.K. Brown, C.Tovar, B.Lyons and G.M.Woods.
Vaccine is the pre-eminent journal for those interested in vaccines and vaccination, and is the official journal of The Edward Jenner Society, The International Society for Vaccines and The Japanese Society for Vaccinology and is published by Elsevier.
Photo: Howel Williams, Save the Tasmanian Devil Program with Menzies devil research partners, Greg Woods, Alex Kreiss and Ruth Pye