Tasmanian devils are becoming resistant to cancer

Tasmanian devil may be coming up with its own cure for fatal facial cancer disease.

Tasmanian Devils are rapidly evolving resistance to the cancer that kills them. © Craig Dingle/iStock
Tasmanian Devils are rapidly evolving resistance to the cancer that kills them. © Craig Dingle/iStock

Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD) has wiped out 80 per cent of the Tasmanian devil population in the past 20 years, and scientists have made little progress in finding a cure.

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But now there’s a ray of hope for the largest-living carnivorous marsupial.

Researchers from Washington State University have found that the species – which is only found in Australia’s island state of Tasmania – is evolving its own immunity to the disease.

Researchers writing in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Communications, say significant changes have occurred in just four generations in two areas and over six generations in another.

“Our results reflect a rapid evolutionary response to the strong selection pressure imposed by DFTD, and such a response to a highly lethal, novel pathogen has rarely, if ever, been documented in wild populations,” they said.

Read the full paper.

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