Thursday, May 25, 2017

Scientists Make Progress for Devil

No, not Satan, but the Tasmanian Devil (Sarcophilus harrisii) which is currently threatened by an outbreak of a virus caused cancer that is transmissible. {19.05.12} Devil facial tumor disease is horribly disfiguring and the tumors grow so large as to prevent the animal from feeding.  The disease is nearly 100% fatal.  It was first detected in 1996 and has decimated populations since then, wiping out more than 80% of Tasmania's iconic marsupial. Last year researchers found that the Devil is developing resistance to the virus.  After extensive laboratory work using immunotherapy, they have successfully shrunk and eliminated small tumors.  Their work is reported in the journal Scientific Reports.  These results give hope for the development of a vaccine.  Efforts are now focused on improving the Devil's response to immunization according to Dr. Cesar Tovar of Menzies Institute for Medical Research.  The existence of a vaccine is good news for captive bred Devils, who can now only be successfully released to the wild after immunization.