Mutant rats are taking over cities in the US thanks to a gene that has made them immune to many vermin poisons.
The mutated vermin are said to be larger than average and have become resistant to toxic poisons used in poorly-thought-through pest control plans.
These super rodents then go on to breed more baby rats that inherit the immunity, according to a University of Richmond professor.
Dr Jonathan Richardson said the rats that survived the onslaught from the poisons made them more “fit” and capable to take over cities such as New York and Chicago.
He added: “If only the fittest rats make it through the control campaign, the survivors may be even better adapted to take advantage of the high-resource minefield of modern cities, leaving a new population of ‘super rats to breed and repopulate.
“These beneficial gene variants have been observed in some natural populations of rats regularly exposed to poison.”
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But, it is feared the mutant rats could continue to spread in huge numbers due to a lack of funding of pest control programmes in US cities.
New York has been unable to hold back the waves of rat infestation, despite Mayor Bill De Blasio splashing £27.000 on an initiative that aimed to cut the rat population by 70%.
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It did emerge, however, that rodents could lose a lot of their genetic variation during deadly control campaigns, according to a 2016 study of Norway rats in Salvador, Brazil.
Variation in the rats’ DNA is key to their survival as it allows them to adapt to changing environments.
Now, experts believe the fight against the mutant super rats is to use different methods of pest control such as dry ice and even controlling giving rats birth control in a bid to cut their numbers.
Unsurprisingly, it was also suggested the most-effective way to stop the rodent plague was better rubbish removal.
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That hasn’t stopped more unusual plans to kill off the vermin, with one study claiming the use of an alcoholic rat-dunking device that was unveiled in New York back in September.
The device, dubbed Ekomile, coaxes rats with food before dropping them a trap door into an alcohol solution that makes them unconscious then drowns them.
It is estimated that it could hold as many as 80 rats in one bucket.
But, it is unlikely to have much of an affect on the rat population which is estimated to be about two million, about one-quarter of the city’s eight million residents.
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