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Australian vets treat anteater for ant allergy
Ants are an echidna’s main source of food.
Echidna in recovery after receiving allergen-specific vaccine

Vets and keepers at a zoo in Australia are celebrating after successfully treating an echidna who was found to be allergic to ants.

Ants are an echidna’s main source of food, so staff at Healesville Sanctuary, Victoria, were surprised when one of their spiny residents had an unusual reaction to them.

The echidna, named Matilda, was first presented to the sanctuary in 2010 after she was accidentally dug up from her burrow. Thought to be around three months old, she would have just started eating termites and ants.

Keepers became surrogates to Matilda as she had not been weaned, and she soon settled into her new environment. But at two years old, the skin around her eyes started to look a little inflamed.

The keepers provided topical treatments and cleaned the eyes but, after a noticeable spread of the inflammation, Matilda was transferred to the Melbourne Veterinary Specialist Centre for allergy testing.

To determine the cause of the inflammation, specialists injected a range of know antigens under Matilda’s skin and observed her for reactions. Once ants were identified as the cause, specialists got to work on developing an allergen-specific vaccine that was unique to her. She then underwent a period of ‘desensitisation’.

‘Matilda’s treatment plan required her vaccine to be given in small, regular doses, exposing her to enough of the allergen to cause an immune response but not so much that it would cause an adverse reaction,’ a spokesperson for Healesville Sanctuary explains. ‘In short, Matilda’s immune system was being trained to learn how to manage and respond to the identified allergens.

‘While time-consuming, this process of desensitisation has been highly effective and become a lifelong solution for Matilda’s allergies.’

Matilda responded well to the treatment and has now been vaccine-free for six months. Thought to be the world’s first allergic echidna, keepers are optimistic that she will now go on to live a long and allergy-free life.

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Public urged to provide homes for swifts

News Story 1
 The RSPB is calling on the public to help provide new homes for swifts, as figures show the birds' numbers have fallen to less than half what they were 20 years ago.

Swifts arrive in the UK late April-May and can spend up to three months in the country. The RSPB attributes the birds’ decline to modern buildings, which lack the nooks and crannies they need to build nests.

While some house builders have agreed to integrate swift homes into new buildings, the RSPB believes more can be done to help this incredible bird. 'Just, 1,000 additional new nest boxes could make a difference’, the charity said.  

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News Shorts
Detection time for omeprazole reduced to 48 hours in racehorses

The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) has announced that the detection time for omeprazole has been reduced from 72 hours to 48 hours. This is effective from 1 February 2019.

Omeprazole can be prescribed for the management of gastric ulcers in racehorses; however, studies have recently become available that show no direct effect of omeprazole on performance.

Tim Morris, the Authority’s Director of Equine Science and Welfare, commented: “Medication control in horse racing is essential to allow treatment for good welfare but also to ensure fair racing by medication withdrawal before racing. Trainers have asked for more information, especially on anti-ulcer medications, and we have used existing information to make a harmonised detection time for omeprazole available as soon as we could.”