Charles Sturt University
Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation

Promoting platypus research

Graham Centre member Dr Joanne Connolly has been presenting her research into mucormycosis, a fungal disease that affects Tasmanian platypus and frogs and toads on the mainland.

Dr Joanne ConnollyDr Connolly was an invited speaker at the national conference of the Australian Society for Microbiology (ASM) in Brisbane in July, giving a symposium on Mucormycosis in the platypus and the amphibian.

The conference featured eminent scientists from Australia and around the world. There were over 160 oral presentations and 400 poster presentations on a diverse range of topics.

Dr Connolly also presented two posters at the 64th Australian Mammal Society (AMS) meeting, also held in Brisbane. She presented a poster on Haemolytic anaemia associated with Theileria sp. in an orphaned platypus, which was co-authored by Dr Geoff Dutton, Associate Professor Robert Woodgate, Associate Professor Shokoofeh Shamsi, Dr Andrew Peters and Allan Kessell, and a poster on Mucormycosis in the platypus and the anuran co-authored by Dr Ali Ghorashi and Dr Benjamin Stodart.

The fungus, Mucor amphibiorum, is the only disease agent known to cause significant morbidity and mortality in the free-living platypus.

Dr Connolly said, “This fungus was responsible for eight per cent of 25 Tasmanian platypus deaths recorded in one year and distribution of disease has expended to at least eleven catchments since the first case in the Elizabeth River at Campbell Town.

“The progressive and fatal nature of mucormycosis and the infection of multiple animals in different populations suggest the disease may impact Tasmanian platypuses at both the individual and population level.

“There is currently no threat abatement plan currently in existence for mucormycosis in the platypus and little or no coordinated monitoring of platypuses for this deadly disease.

“Surveillance and risk analysis for mucormycosis in the platypus, especially in currently disease-free zones, is highly recommended.

“These conference presentations were an effective way of increasing awareness in mainland Australia of the risk of mucormycosis to the platypus, promoting increased surveillance and making new research contacts,” Dr Connolly said.


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