New move in pest control

Otago Medical School senior lecturer Dr Ivan Sammut is involved in researching new red-blood-cell...
Otago Medical School senior lecturer Dr Ivan Sammut is involved in researching new red-blood-cell toxins to kill rats and mice. Photo supplied.

Having one centre co-ordinating wildlife management and conservation should enable new ideas for pest management to become a reality more quickly, Otago researcher Dr Ivan Sammut says.

Dr Sammut is one of a group of Otago researchers, including pharmacologists and chemists, working on new toxins to control rats and mice, a project that comes under the umbrella of the Centre for Wildlife Management and Conservation at Lincoln University, which was officially opened yesterday.

The centre will focus research efforts on delivering a range of "next-generation tools" to protect native animals and plants from mammalian pests and improve ways to conserve threatened species, and better equipping people to deliver and use the tools.

Centre director Prof Charles Eason said it had been 30 years since a new toxin for rat and mouse control had been developed.

What the team from the University of Otago Medical School and Auckland University were doing to develop a new toxin was a huge challenge and would have "huge international significance", he said.

It was a two-pronged study that would have clinical benefits for humans as well as providing another option for pest control. 

"It's an exciting area of fundamental research."

The programme at the centre had been set up to bridge the gap between research and commercialisation, Dr Eason said.

Dr Sammut, a medical school senior lecturer in cardiovascular pharmacology, said the research involved rapidly decreasing oxygenation in the blood, providing a quick and more humane way to kill that did not leave any residue.

The work done by the centre would make it much easier to drive new initiatives by providing the expertise to patent ideas and set up trials, he said.

Dr Eason said that at the other end of the research scale was the PAP (para-aminopropiophenone) virus, which was launched at the opening yesterday. It was a humane toxin that killed stoats quickly. However, it was not toxic to rodents.



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