Monday, 26 November 2012

Henley hit by 'mutant super rat' invasion

Researchers found the picturesque riverside Oxfordshire area has been inundated with dozens of the pests, which carry a poison-resistant gene.

Having migrated from parts of Berkshire and Hampshire, the brown rats, and their life-threatening diseases, are spreading after being found on several unidentified farms.

The survey found the rats to be living in both urban and rural areas.

Experts say that despite appearing the same as their non-mutant counterparts, they are resistant to pest controls because of their genetic mutation.

"All rats tend to carry various diseases,” said Dr Alan Buckle, from the University of Reading.

“The reason we need to get rid of them is because they transmit diseases from themselves to humans and farm animals.

“They can be life-threatening.”

Dr Buckle, who led the study, added: "These anticoagulant-resistant rats carry the same diseases as other rats carry but are very difficult to control."

The survey, funded by nine organisations involved in pest control, tested the tails of hundreds of rodents to establish where the mutant rats lived.

A map was drawn indicating where the rats were found, including areas around Henley and Berkshire towns Caversham and Sonning although precise locations were not published.

The team used new DNA techniques to determine the prevalence of rats with the poison-resistant gene.

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