‘Immune’ Tassie devil death a set-back

By Patrick Caruana/AAP and AG staff 2 September 2010
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Cedric, the Tasmanian devil thought to have been immune to tumour facial disease, has succumbed to the illness.

THE DEATH OF A TASMANIAN devil thought to have been immune from the facial tumour disease threatening the species is a setback, researchers say.

A devil, known as Cedric, was thought to be immune from the fatal and contagious Deadly Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD) that threatens to wipe out the entire species. But he became infected in late 2008, and was euthanised last week, the Menzies Research Institute of Tasmania said on Wednesday.

Institute researcher Dr Alex Kreiss says Cedric was a special devil. “He was especially important, because he did produce an immuno-response initially,” he told reporters in Hobart. “We would like to remember him as the symbol of the fight against DFTD. There are many devils that die in the wild that don’t have a name.”

Cedric had provided vital information about developing a cure for the disease, Alex says. “Cedric has played an important part in helping us to understand more about the disease. While this death is sad news, it is only one part of the puzzle toward developing a vaccine against DFTD. This was always going to be a long and difficult task but the information that Cedric supplied has provided clues for alternative immunisation strategies.”

The disease had now been recorded in 60 per cent of devil areas in Tasmania, Alex says.