Animals

Tasmanian devil research promising

Researchers believe they may be able to save the tasmanian devil from extinction after tests showed the masupial’s own antibiodies could be used to treat a facial tumour disease that has ravaged the devil population.

Tasmanian Devil. Photo: Menna Jones.

Tasmanian Devil. Photo: Menna Jones.

A recent study found antibody therapy could reduce melanomas in tasmanian devils. The melanomas form as highly visible lumps which form around the mouth of the animal, leaving it unable to eat.

The devil eventually dies of starvation or organ failure as the disease spreads throughout its body.

Four universities and the Save the Devil program collaborated on the research project.

Deakin University senior research fellow Dr Beata Ujvari, who worked on the project, said it was still possible to save the tasmanian devil from extinction.

“A species going extinct is a long process,” Dr Ujvari said.

“The disease has been in the local population for over 20 years now, and the number of diseased is now very high.

“And a lot can happen in the next couple of years that could help the species’ local population.”

There is currently no cure for the highly contagious disease, which is spread among the devil popoulation through biting. Devils usually die within a year of the first emergence of lesions.

It is estimated the disease has killed 85 per cent of the Tasmanian devil population since it was first discovered 20 years ago.