New research from the University of Tasmania is offering hope that a deadly disease impacting Tasmanian wombats can be brought under control.
Mange is a deadly disease caused by mites carried by domestic animals that has ravaged Tasmania's wombat population, having first been introduced to Australia during colonisation.
In a paper published on Wednesday in the Journal of Applied Ecology, researchers present a treatment program and lessons learned from it to guide the development of more effective and feasible control of mange disease in wombat populations.
Long-term disease control in wildlife is rare, and is particularly difficult for pathogens that can transmitted through the environment such as the mite that causes mange in bare-nosed wombats.
During an attempt to control the mange outbreak at Narawntapu National Park in Northern Tasmania, PhD student Alynn Martin showed the disease could be controlled temporarily using a Cydectin treatment remotely delivered to wombats using flaps over their burrows.
"The logistics of this treatment made long-term disease control extremely challenging," Ms Martin said.
"After three months of trying to treat each wombat in the population every week, the disease returned and wombats continued to die.
"It was very disappointing to see after going to so much effort to save these wombats."
With the help of University of Tasmania ecological modeller Dr Shane Richards, it was discovered a combination of a longer-lasting treatment and an improved method of delivery would improve the capacity to control mange in wombat populations.
"Slight improvements in multiple aspects of disease control can have dramatic impacts on our capacity to control this disease in wombats," Dr Richards said.
Lead researcher Dr Scott Carver said they were now researching a longer-lasting treatment for wombats, called Bravecto.
"We have researched the safety and dose, and are currently determining the effectiveness of the new treatment," Dr Carver said.
"Our overarching aim is to make the management of this pathogen much more feasible for individual wild wombats and local at-risk populations."