Research sheds light on mite causing wombat mange

Published:

NOTE: This article is older than 12 months

Genetic research led by USC has scratched below the surface to find the potential origins of sarcoptic mange, a disease in wombats that is highly infectious between animals and deadly if untreated.

Bribie Island-raised PhD student Tamieka Fraser, who is jointly enrolled at USC and the University of Tasmania, was lead investigator on a recently-published study that for the first time sequenced a genome in the scabies mite infecting two Australian marsupials, wombats and koalas.

The debilitating disease that starts with intense itching already affects a majority of bare-nosed and southern hairy-nosed wombat populations in southern states.

Further research aims to diagnose the disease earlier, reduce its incidence and understand the risk of it spreading to the endangered northern hairy-nosed wombat in Queensland.

USC collaborated with the University of Tasmania, the University of Melbourne and Cedar Creek Wombat Hospital in New South Wales on the paper, published in BMC Evolutionary Biology.

Ms Fraser, 25, of Mooloolaba, said the results were exciting and unexpected.

“Sequencing the maternally-inherited genome of the mite, Sarcoptes scabiei, provides an enormous amount of information to enable us to understand more about the spread of this disease in wildlife, to hopefully aid conservation efforts,” she said.

The team studied the genomes of mites obtained from skin scrapings from wild wombats and koalas in Tasmania, Victoria and New South Wales.

“We found that the mites in both wombats and koalas were closely related to each other and showed no signs of geographic or host separation,” said Ms Fraser, a graduate of St Paul’s Anglican School at Bald Hills and Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane.

“The evidence suggests the mite may have been introduced to Australian wildlife by animals from overseas on multiple occasions since European settlement. For example, Australian mites were very similar, genetically, to mites on buffalo in Egypt and on dogs in America, China and Japan.

“This was surprising because previous research suggested the mange mite was introduced to Australia by European settlers. This research does not suggest this hypothesis is incorrect, but that the origins of scabies mites in Australia may be more complicated than originally thought.”

Ms Fraser, who expects to finish her PhD in mid-2018, said the team had since expanded the research to more animal species, including wild dogs and foxes.

Her work is supervised by Professor Adam Polkinghorne of the USC Animal Research Centre, and Dr Scott Carver of the University of Tasmania.

Ms Fraser said the fieldwork element of the study was a highlight.

“It was tremendously sad to see animals suffering in the wild but it was exhilarating to be working to help them,” she said.

“Catching a wombat with what looks like a big butterfly net was interesting. The largest we caught weighed 23kg and they’re fast, especially if you don’t realise you’re in front of their burrow.

“Australian wildlife and conservation have a special place in my heart and I’ve been inspired to improve our understanding of the epidemiology and diagnosis of this disease.”

Funding for the study was provided by a Holsworth Wildlife Research Endowment.

Research sheds light on mite causing wombat mange (3)


 
Animals Wildlife or Pets Environment Science & Research University & TAFE
Social:   

University Of The Sunshine Coast : View Full Profile
90 Sippy Downs Drive, Sippy Downs
07 5430 1234
University Of The Sunshine Coast
Showing 10+ recent articles for this business
Touch champion claims USC sports award 15 November 2019 | Dally M medal winner for the NRL’s national touch competition Hayley Maddick has been named USC’s Sportsperson of the Year for 2019. More information...
University to celebrate its sporting champions 13 November 2019 | Athletes vying for and selected in Australian teams for the Tokyo Olympic Games are among the students in the running for prizes at USC’s annual Sports Awards Ceremony tomorrow evening (Thursday 14 November). More information...
Researchers seek details about supporting dads 11 November 2019 | Researchers investigating the significance of fathers in young children’s lives and the benefits of providing support to new dads are about to start a new phase of their study.  More information...
Launch of suicide prevention strategy for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples 13 November 2019 | USC’s Sunshine Coast Mind and Neuroscience – Thompson Institute will tomorrow launch a strategy to support the social and emotional wellbeing of Sunshine Coast Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. More information...
Projects highlight new risks associated with automated vehicles, animal disease 14 November 2019 | The rise of autonomous vehicles in Australia could lead to new kinds of road crashes, a USC researcher has suggested in a new national booklet celebrating women in science. More information...
From new coders to Internet inventors in 13 weeks 06 November 2019 | Engineering students tasked with building an automated product from scratch took only 13 weeks to deliver a suite of impressive inventions at USC.   More information...
Biomedical Science graduate starts health tech job 07 November 2019 | USC Biomedical Science graduate Storm Woolley is applying his studies and technical expertise to a new role in the digital health division of a systems integration and technology company. More information...
Clinical trials commitment earns industry award 04 November 2019 | The Director of USC Clinical Trials, Lucas Litewka, has been recognised nationally for his significant contribution to the medical technology and pharmaceuticals (MTP) sector. More information...
Rate of sudden deaths in Indigenous infants much higher than estimated: USC research 31 October 2019 | Indigenous infants in Queensland may be dying suddenly and unexpectedly at a rate more than 3.5 times that of non-Indigenous infants, according to USC Nursing and Midwifery research. More information...
Design students’ work to shine in virtual Cave 31 October 2019 | The innovative work of graduating Design students will be on show to the public in an immersive experience inside The Cave2 on campus at USC Sunshine Coast on Monday 11 November from 9am to 4pm. More information...


comments powered by Disqus

All articles submitted by third parties or written by My Sunshine Coast come under our Disclaimer / Terms of Service