Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | Video | Questions Of the Day | Search


Breakthrough In Bid For Possum Birth Control

Tue, 19 Oct 2004

Breakthrough In Bid For Possum Birth Control

Researchers have made major progress toward developing a contraceptive for possums in the wild, with a new experimental vaccine that reduces possum fertility by a third.

Possums damage native forests, spread bovine Tb among cattle and deer, and eat the eggs and chicks of native birds. Trapping, shooting and especially poisoning are used to reduce possum numbers. Effective fertility control would reduce the need for poisons such as 1080, and further reduce risks to non-target species.

Landcare Research physiologist Dr Janine Duckworth and her team have developed a vaccine that works by immunising female possums so that their eggs are not fertilised. The technique uses "bacterial ghosts", which were developed overseas for medical vaccines to fight disease in humans. "We start with a harmless strain of the common E.coli bacterium. We then add a protein found in female possums' eggs into the cell wall of the bacteria. The bacteria are then killed and the shells of the empty bacterial cells or "ghosts" are given to the possum.

"The possum's immune system recognises the bacterial ghost as foreign, and produces antibodies against them. At the same time, it is tricked into developing antibodies against the possum egg protein as well, thus having a contraceptive effect." In trials held in containment, 20 possums were dosed with an inactive vaccine, and 20 with the vaccine containing the possum egg protein. The possums were artificially inseminated. Around 90% of the eggs of the possums given the inactive vaccine were fertilised. This figure dropped to 58% for the possums given the vaccine containing the egg coat protein.

"This is the proof of concept that we have been looking for. We are delighted it has worked so well," Dr Duckworth says. "Our next aim is to further reduce fertility, by more than 50%, and then to make the contraceptive effect last longer.

"If we can achieve this, the amount of poison used in New Zealand could be reduced by at least 50%, and potentially more as we improve the vaccine." Dr Duckworth and her team will continue working with collaborators at the University of Vienna, Austria, to refine the vaccine design.

"We will trial different preparation methods to improve the vaccine's effectiveness still further.

"Also, currently the vaccine is applied in a way that mimics a nasal spray, entering the possum's body through the mucosal surfaces of the eyes and nose. We want to develop an edible encapsulated bait for the vaccine, which would be easier to use in the field." All research on the vaccine so far has been held in containment. The researchers plan to apply for ERMA approval to run limited field trials in 2008.


© Scoop Media

Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines

Gordon Campbell: On The Peters/Ardern Triumph

There are a lot of good reasons to feel joyful about this outcome. It is what so many young voters – the best hope for the country’s future – wanted.

Far more important than the implications for the Economy Gods ( is the dollar up or down? ) last night’s outcome will also mean many, many vulnerable New Zealanders will have a better life over the next three years at least.

Yet the desire for change was in the majority, across the country..>>>More


Labour on its agreement |Peters: Post-Election Announcement Speech | Greenpeace “cautiously hopeful” about new Government | ACT - Madman on the loose | E tū ecstatic | Chamber welcomes the outcome | Greens on their joining Govt | EDS welcomes new govt | Immigrant groups worry | Feds ready to engage new coalition government | Labour Ministers of the Crown announced


Climate: Increasing Greenhouse Emissions Hit NZ

New Zealand is seeing impacts of excess greenhouse gas emissions in our climate and oceans, according to the latest national report from the Ministry for the Environment and Stats NZ about the state of the atmosphere and climate…More>>


Wellington.Scoop: Arrests At Blockade Of "Weapons Expo"

“We encourage people in Wellington to get down to the Westpac Stadium now for a day of awesome peace action. There will be plenty of food, music and activities to keep us sustained through the day.” More>>


Rorschach Restructuring: PSA Taking Inland Revenue To Court Over Psychometrics

The Public Service Association will be seeing Inland Revenue in Employment Court over its intention to psychometrically test employees reapplying for their roles at the department as part of its controversial Business Transformation restructuring plan. More>>


Nuclear Disarmament: Nobel Peace Prize 2017 Awarded To ICAN

Congratulations from iCAN Aotearoa New Zealand to international iCAN, the other iCAN national campaigns and partner organisations, and the countless organisations and individuals who have worked so hard for a nuclear weapons-free world since 1945. More>>


Expenses: Waikato DHB CEO Resigns

An independent inquiry has identified that Dr Murray had spent more than the agreed $25K allocated for relocation costs, and other unauthorized expenses involving potential financial breaches of the chief executive’s obligations. More>>


Wellington.Scoop: Sad About The Trolley Buses?

The Regional Council’s MetLink is today spending money to tell us that it really loves Wellington’s trolley buses, even though they’re all being taken off our roads by the end of this month. More>>


Post-Election: Preliminary Coalition Talks Begin

New Zealand First will hold post-election preliminary discussions in Wellington with the National Party tomorrow morning and the Labour Party tomorrow afternoon. More>>




Featured InfoPages

Opening the Election