Landcare Research - Manaaki Whenua

Landcare-Research -Manaaki Whenua

Biological control of possums

Biological control will be an important tool in the long-term management of New Zealand's possum problem.

Landcare Research is part of a national consortium (the National Research Centre for Possum Biocontrol) developing immunocontraception to be used to reduce possum breeding.

The possum's own immune system is being used to interfere with the process by which sperm fertilises the egg. The immune system is tricked into thinking that proteins that make up part of the coat of the egg are foreign, and the response stops female possums producing eggs and/or interferes with the fertilisation of any eggs produced.

At the same time, suitable delivery systems are being developed that could take the form of either a bait that can be fed to possums from bait stations or an agent that can transmit naturally from possum to possum.



  • Young LJ, Cross ML, Duckworth JA, Flenady S, Belov K 2012. Molecular identification of interleukin-2 in the lymphoid tissues of the common brushtail possum, Trichosurus vulpecula. Developmental and comparative immunology 36(1): 236-40. <Go to ISI>://MEDLINE:21683733
  • Cross ML, Zheng T, Duckworth JA, Cowan PE 2011. Could recombinant technology facilitate the realisation of a fertility-control vaccine for possums? New Zealand journal of zoology 38(1): 91-111.
  • Cross ML, Fleming SB, Cowan PE, Scobie S, Whelan E, Prada D, Mercer AA, Duckworth JA 2011. Vaccinia virus as a vaccine delivery system for marsupial wildlife. Vaccine 29(28): 4537-4543.
  • Duckworth J 2011. Fertility control vaccines for possums: progress, challenges and prospects. Protect Summer 2011: 15-16.
  • Cui X, Duckworth JA, Lubitz P, Molinia FC, Haller C, Lubitz W, Cowan PE 2010. Humoral immune responses in brushtail possums (Trichosurus vulpecula) induced by bacterial ghosts expressing possum zona pellucida 3 protein. Vaccine 28(26): 4268-4274.
  • Cui X, Duckworth JA, Molinia FC, Cowan PE 2010. Identification and evaluation of an infertility-associated ZP3 epitope from the marsupial brushtail possum (Trichosurus vulpecula). Vaccine 28(6): 1499-1505.
  • Duckworth J, Scobie S, Lubitz P, Lubitz W, Cowan PE 2010. Bait-delivered fertility control vaccines for brushtail possums in New Zealand. Journal of reproductive immunology 86(1): 36-36.
  • Duckworth J, Tompkins D, Cowan P 2010. Biocontrol research to mitigate the impacts of possums. Protect(Spring ): 23-25.
  • Holland OJ, Cowan PE, Gleeson DM, Duckworth JA, Chamley LW 2010. Immunocontraceptive vaccines and major histocompatibility complex variation in the brushtail possum. Journal of reproductive immunology 86(1): 36-36.
  • Holland OJ, Cowan PE, Gleeson DM, Duckworth JA, Chamley LW 2009. MHC haplotypes and response to immunocontraceptive vaccines in the brushtail possum. Journal of reproductive immunology 82(1): 57-65.
  • Duckworth JA, Cui X, Scobie S, Arrow J, Cowan PE 2008. Development of a contraceptive vaccine for the marsupial brushtail possum (Trichosurus vulpecula): lack of effects in mice and chickens immunised with recombinant possum ZP3 protein and a possum ZP3 antifertility epitope. Wildlife Research 35(6): 563-572.
  • Walcher P, Cui XL, Arrow JA, Scobie S, Molinia FC, Cowan PE, Lubitz W, Duckworth JA 2008. Bacterial ghosts as a delivery system for zona pellucida-2 fertility control vaccines for brushtail possums (Trichosurus vulpecula). Vaccine 26(52): 6832-6838.
  • Duckworth JA, Wilson K, Cui XL, Molinia FC, Cowan PE 2007. Immunogenicity and contraceptive potential of three infertility-relevant zona pellucida 2 epitopes in the marsupial brushtail possum (Trichosurus vulpecula). Reproduction 133(1): 177-186.
  • Molinia FC, Myers JV, Glazier AM, Duckworth JA, Rodger JC 2007. Uterine and vaginal insemination optimised in brushtail possums (Trichosurus vulpecula) superovulated with pregnant mare serum gonadotrophin and porcine luteinising hormone. Reproduction, fertility and development 19(4): 521-529.
  • Duckworth JA, Byrom AE, Fisher P, Horn C 2006. Pest control: does the answer lie in new biotechnologies? In: Allen RB, Lee WG ed. Biological invasions in New Zealand. 186 ed. Ecological studies. 27. Berlin, Springer. Pp. 421-434.
  • Cui XL, Duckworth J 2005. Mapping of B cell epitopes on the zona pellucida 2 protein of a marsupial, the brushtail possum (Trichosurus vulpecula). Molecular reproduction and development 70(4): 485-493.
  • Duckworth JA, Cui X, Molinia FC, Cowan PE, Walcher P, Lubitz W 2005. Fertility control Vaccines for the management of brushtail possums in New Zealand. Tissue Antigens 66(5): 163-.
  • Polkinghorne I, Hamerli D, Cowan P, Duckworth J 2005. Plant-based immunocontraceptive control of wildlife : "potentials, limitations, and possums". Vaccine 23(15): 1847-1850.
  • Pennycook S 2005. [Book review] Fungi of New Zealand / Nga harore o Aotearoa. Te taiao 5: 10-11.
  • Sidhu KS, Mate KE, Harris MS, Molinia FC, Duckworth JA, Cowan PE, Rodger JC 2002. Immunocontraceptive biotechnology as respite to environmental degradation caused by the pest species. A lesson from brushtail possum overabundance in New Zealand. In: Bali G, Ramamurthi R, Sullia SB, Shiralipour A, Kastury S ed. Environmental biotechnology. 23. New Delhi, APH Publishing Corporation. Pp. 345-362.
  • Khalil AM, McFarlane RG, Duckworth JA 2001/4. Humoral immunity to cholera toxin and ovalbumin in the brushtail possum (Trichosurus vulpecula). New Zealand veterinary journal 49(2): 54-59.
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