The Loh Down On Science

Brit Invasion

Adding the prefix “super” is usually positive … unless it’s followed by  “rats”?!?!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Across the U.K., upwards of 70 percent of the rat population is defined as “super.” Super rats are rats with a natural genetic immunity to traditional poisons. Because the mutation is passed on to offspring, super rats are quickly outbreeding normal rats. They also spread disease, eat food supplies, and cause structural damage.

So British scientists are working on new poisons to deal with the villainous rodents. Using advanced DNA sequencing and only three centimeters of tail, they can tell if a rat is genetically immune to standard poisons. The idea is to pinpoint geographic regions of highest resistance. And not needing the whole carcass is helpful when testing thousands of rats. (Think mountain of dead rats--ew!) They work may also lead to safe but effective new pesticides.

In the meantime, should you spot a super rat, please feel free to run screaming down the street. British accent optional.

The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, with 89.3 KPCC Pasadena, California. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

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