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Gene drives could combat exploding population of poison-resistant subway rats and other pests

| | December 11, 2017

Figures … show that London councils receive 100 complaints about rats and mice each day with some local authorities reporting a 10 per cent increase in the number of rodents since last year.

Most pest controllers use poison, but rats are fast becoming resistant to even the strongest toxins, and poison risks harming pets and other animals.

Now experts at Edinburgh University believe that a process called ‘gene drive’ could solve the problem. It works by spreading infertility genes through a population, which causes a catastrophic drop in numbers over several generations.

A similar approach is already being tested in mosquitoes, to help control diseases like malaria and zika. But now the scientists want to find out it if could also work in mammals.

The technique suggested for rodents is known as ‘x-shredding.’ Male mammals have both an ‘x’ and ‘y’ sex chromosome, while females need two ‘x’ chromosomes.

The scientists want to insert ‘x shredder’ code into the DNA of male rats which would destroy the ‘x’ chromosomes in their sperm, meaning they could only pass on a ‘y’ chromosome, so their offspring would never be female. With fewer and fewer females over time, the population would have to decline.

Read full, original post: Genetically mutated rats could be released in Britain to solve rodent problem

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