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Update on the devil facial tumour in Tasmania


McGlashan, ND and Obendorf, DL and Harington, JS, Update on the devil facial tumour in Tasmania, European Journal of Oncology, 12, (2) pp. 75-80. ISSN 1128-6598 (2007) [Refereed Article]


A forum of some eighty research scientists, all with concern about the infectious, malignant disease affecting Tasmanian devils (devil facial tumour = DFT) was held in Hobart in February 2007. Wide agreement was expressed about the extreme impact of the condition, with likelihood of the devil becoming critically endangered or even facing extinction in the wild within 10 to 15 years. The gradual diffusion of DFT into western parts of Tasmania, where it has not yet been recognised to date, now seems inevitable. Definitive transmission experiments that corroborate the allograft cell transfer theory have been attempted but the results have not been published. No early diagnostic test for DFT has yet been developed so that visibly obvious tumours are the sole criterion for recognising the condition which has proved fatal in every known case. Nor, according to Tasmanian Government field biologists, is there any sign of recovery or natural immunity in residual devil communities in which DFT has now been known for over a decade. Approaches to retaining disease-free populations of wild devils are continuing. A field experiment is underway on Forestier Peninsula where all visibly DFT-affected devils are being euthanased with the aim of managing the spread of DFT and maintaining a depopulated 'buffer' between diseased and currently disease-free devil populations on the linked Tasman peninsula. Another approach being explored is the placement of populations of wild disease-free devils on one or more suitably-sized offshore islands. Difficulties with this programme of rendition of disease-free devils to these islands or to other biosecure sites are discussed. The development of a protective vaccine against DFT is being considered to ensure in the long-term the future of the Tasmanian devil.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Research Division:Biological Sciences
Research Group:Zoology
Research Field:Zoology not elsewhere classified
Objective Division:Health
Objective Group:Clinical health
Objective Field:Clinical health not elsewhere classified
UTAS Author:McGlashan, ND (Dr Neil McGlashan)
ID Code:48534
Year Published:2007
Web of Science® Times Cited:2
Deposited By:Geography and Environmental Studies
Deposited On:2007-08-01
Last Modified:2008-04-16

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