Mouse populations could be eradicated in some areas through new gene modification technology to render female mice infertile. The technology – called t-CRISPR – was previously developed to target malaria-transmitting mosquitoes. This is the first proof of concept for its use as a mammalian genetic biocontrol tool targeting house mice, which is an invasive pest in Australia. In time, it could be used to control rodents on islands and landmasses where they cause widespread destruction. The research, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is the first time t-CRISPR has been successfully tested on mammals in a laboratory setting, according to senior author Professor Paul Thomas. Computer modelling conducted by the team suggests about 250 gene-modified mice could eradicate an island population of 200,000 mice in around 20 years. “We have had mouse plagues in Australia for 150 years and existing controls, like baits, cause inhumane death and are expensive and labour intensive to deploy,” says Thomas, who works across the University of Adelaide and the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute.
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