New tool helps scientists, veterinarians shed light on koala chlamydia infections
Fast, accurate testing is important when studying infections in a wildlife setting. That’s why researchers in Australia, looking to improve on the time required by traditional PCR tests to detect chlamydia infections in koalas, created a new, rapid point-of-care diagnostic tool. Their research was published in Microbiology Open.
The loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) assay gives wildlife ecologists and veterinarians at wildlife hospitals the opportunity to swab and get an answer on the spot, rather than wait days for a diagnosis to return from the lab. Additionally, the new assay shows high specificity and sensitivity, equal to that of PCR. This exceeds previous, now unavailable, pointof-care diagnostic tools for detection of Chlamydia pecorum infections in koalas.
To test the specificity of the LAMP assay, the collaborative group of researchers that included both Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and University of Queensland used the DNeasy Blood Tissue Kit to extract DNA and the Rotor-Gene Q Real-Time PCR cycler to perform the PCR testing. The DNeasy Blood Tissue Kit removes impurities, leaving researchers with the cleanest possible DNA for downstream applications. Combined with the Rotor-Gene Q PCR cycler, QIAGEN provides researchers with the gold standard in PCR results. This gave the research team an excellent control to ensure the new test is as accurate as possible.
The LAMP-based test is point of care diagnostics, allowing those working with koala populations in the wild around Queensland to better manage the number of chlamydia-infected patients they see. While infection rate numbers vary, an article published by Queensland University of Technology notes that four out of five koalas seen at one wildlife hospital in 2018 had a chlamydia infection. General manager and senior vet at Currumbin Wildlife Hospital, Michael Pyne said in the article “Chlamydia is so common it is crucial that we test all the koalas, and this test is not only quick, it gives us a semi-quantitative measure to indicate how badly infected the koala is so we can make the appropriate treatment decisions.”
In the same article, Associate Professor Stephen Johnston, University of Queensland zoologist and team member on the LAMP assay study noted that some koalas can have a high bacterial load and be very infectious, while still showing no outward signs of infection. Ph.D. student Lyndal Hulse from the University of Queensland in Gatton who conducted this research is also working to develop assays for Chlamydia pneumoniae and Bordetella bronchiseptica, which, her supervisor, Ph.D. Kenneth Beagley from QUT suggested that this could, in the future, be incorporated into a single panel test. If you are curious about more research aimed at better understanding problems faced by koalas in Australia, we invite you to read our previous blog post on the subject: “Insights from the land down under.” Want to meet the gold standard in PCR? Learn more about the Rotor-Gene Q on the QIAGEN website.