The Devil at Play; Cancer Is Threatening to Wipe out This Species

Article excerpt




A FEW weeks back I wrote about Tasmanian devil facial tumour disease, one of a handful of cancers that one individual can acatcha off another by direct physical contact, in this case helped by the Devilas propensity for fighting.

The cancer is passed from devil to devil through biting. The live tumour cells arenat rejected by the animalas immune system because of a lack of genetic diversity in the Tasmanian devil popula- tion. The tumours grow so large that the poor devils are unable to eat or sometimes even breathe.

A significant research effort is under way to try and save the Tassie devil, with both government and private funding driving research on a number of aspects of this horrible disease. With more than 75% of the State now affected, there is an understand- able sense of urgency.

A former colleague at Alstonville Vet, Dr Ruth Pye is part of a team at the Menzies Research Institute doing doctoral study looking into the immune response and possible vaccines.

Others are sequencing the genome of the devil and still others are looking at the population dynamics, the diet of the devils, mapping the disease and creating safe havens on acleana islands such as Maria Island. …


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