Dis­ease break­through

New treat­ment may save our wom­bats

Mercury (Hobart) - - NEWS -

HE­LEN KEMP­TON

A BREAK­THROUGH in the treat­ment of sar­cop­tic mange in wom­bats will be tested via field tri­als in Tas­ma­nia and NSW next year, in a move which could ul­ti­mately save lo­cal pop­u­la­tions from the cruel dis­ease.

A large-scale mange out­break was first noted in Tas­ma­nia’s wom­bat pop­u­la­tion at Narawn­tapu Na­tional Park in 2010.

There are now only up to 10 wom­bats left there, and in­fected wom­bats are be­ing found across the state.

Com­mu­nity groups like Wom­bat Res­cue have been us­ing Cy­dectin to treat sick wom­bats in their bur­rows, and kits have been sent to vol­un­teers as far afield as Cra­dle Moun­tain, Ep­ping For­est, the Great Lakes and Huonville.

But a bet­ter so­lu­tion was needed, said Scott Carver, of the Univer­sity of Tas­ma­nia.

He has been work­ing for the past 18 months to find a more ef­fec­tive treat­ment — us­ing funds pre­vi­ously given by the Tas­ma­nian Gov­ern­ment to­wards com­bat­ing wom­bat mange dis­ease — and has now proved a prod­uct used to treat mange in dogs is safe to use on wom­bats.

Dr Carver — lead­ing a team of re­searchers from UTAS, Univer­sity of the Sun­shine Coast and Univer­sity of Syd­ney — has re­ceived an Aus­tralian Re­search Coun­cil Link­age Pro­ject grant.

With sup­port from part­ners the state En­vi­ron­ment Depart­ment, Hy­dro Tas­ma­nia, High­land Conservati­on, Bonorong wildlife park, MSD An­i­mal Health and WaterNSW, this will al­low field tri­als to be un­der­taken early next year. “It is not a vac­cine but a treat­ment called Bravecto, which is a much longer-last­ing and ef­fec­tive treat­ment than Cy­dectin,” Dr Carver said.

“The chem­i­cal used is rel­a­tively new to the mar­ket and re­ally long-last­ing.

“One of the prob­lems with treat­ing wild wom­bats is that Cy­dectin, while ef­fec­tive, only pro­tects for a week. Wom­bats are also not very easy pa­tients to work with. They are hard to track and over­lap with in­fected an­i­mals as the treat­ment is wear­ing off, mean­ing they can eas­ily get re­in­fected.

“We have found that Bravecto pro­tects for over three months, and in­di­ca­tions are a sin­gle treat­ment at the same dose as a sim­i­larly size dog will break the mange mite cy­cle.”

Dr Carver’s first tri­als, con­ducted at Bonorong wildlife park in col­lab­o­ra­tion from Zoodoo, de­ter­mined Bravecto was safe to use on wom­bats.

“Since then I have been work­ing with Cedar Creek Wom­bat Res­cue and Hos­pi­tal in NSW, one of few places able to man­age sick wom­bats in cap­tiv­ity,” he said.

“We have treated three with mange. Each were given a sin­gle dose and all have shown re­mark­ably rapid re­cov­ery.”

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