Genetically mutated rats could be released to solve rodent problem
Genetically mutated rats could be released to help tackle the growing problem with rodents, Edinburgh University has said.
Scientists have launched a project to find out if genetically editing animals could provide a more humane method of pest control.
Figures released last week show that London councils receive 100 complaints about rats and mice each day with some local authorities reporting a 10pc 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 technology uses the DNA editing technique called Crispr, a natural process by which bacteria fight off viruses by snipping away at their DNA.
The rodents would be genetically modified in the laboratory before being released into the wild where they could mate with the native population.