Animal Conservation

Ivermectin could help save endangered Australian sea lion

Ivermectin is an effective treatment for hookworm in the endangered Australian sea lion, according to research from the University of Sydney.

Hookworm infection contributes up to 40 percent of puppy deaths. In December of last year, the species was reclassified as “endangered” due to a 64% reduction in offspring over three generations. With less than 10,000 of these native Australian animals remaining, making them a federal conservation priority, the results are good news.

While ivermectin has recently gained notoriety as an unproven prophylactic and therapy for COVID-19 (coronavirus), it has long been used in human and veterinary medicine as a highly effective treatment for parasitic infections.

In Australian sea lions, topical ivermectin has now been shown to be very effective against hookworm infection, with an efficacy rate of 96.4%, comparable to the injected formulation (96.8%).

All Australian sea lion babies are infected with hookworm by ingesting larvae in their mother’s milk within 48 hours of birth.

Researchers believe that the demonstrated effectiveness of this minimally invasive and easy-to-apply hookworm treatment option is the next step in a disease management strategy to help conserve this endangered species. The results were published in the International Journal of Parasitology: Parasites and Fauna.