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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

'Super' mouse evolves resistance to most poisons

Scientists say that some European house mice have developed resistance to the strongest poisons.

German and Spanish mice have rapidly evolved the trait by breeding with an Algerian species from which they have been separate for over a million years.

The researchers say this type of gene transfer is highly unusual and normally found in plants and bacteria.

The Current Biology report says this process could yield mice resistant to almost any form of pest control.

Warfarin is a drug widely used in medicine as an anti-coagulant to prevent the build-up of harmful blood clots. It works through inhibiting a protein called VKORC1. This protein turns on our ability to produce vitamin K, which is essential for clotting.

Too much warfarin can cause fatal bleeding, and it was this quality that led to its introduction as a pesticide against rats and mice in the 1950s.

But the creatures have been slowly evolving traits to survive warfarin, and pockets of resistant rodents have been found in many different parts of the world.

Now scientists say that German and Spanish mice have found a rapid method of overcoming the threat by cross-breeding with Algerian mice that are, according to the researchers, an entirely different species. (more)