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Invincible super rats sweeping across the UK

The genetic tests have shown that rodents have now developed a mutation. Credit: PA

New evidence uncovered by the University of Huddersfield shows that rats across large swathes of Britain have now genetically evolved to withstand commonly available poisons.

The research found that some towns had rats that were 100% resistant to over-the-counter poisons.

The findings will be shown on the Tonight programme on ITV at 7:30pm this evening, and later on the ITV Player

Rats across Britain are increasingly becoming resistant to poison. Credit: Peter Jordan/PA

Rats have long been considered deadly pests - spreading disease, damaging food stocks and damaging homes.

They are carriers of potentially fatal illnesses like Weil’s disease, Lassa fever and bubonic plague to name but a few.

Genetic tests conducted by the university have shown that rats have developed a mutation that allows them to survive commonly available poisons such as Bromadiolone and Difenacoum.

Professional quality poisons are able to kill the rats but these cannot be used outdoors without a special license and are potentially damaging to wildlife and the environment.

Such stronger poisons could affect harvest mice, birds of prey, and even domestic pets.

We're using the same group of chemicals over and over again, resistance will build up, so the UK, but also many other parts of the world, are suffering from this phenomenon of resistance development.

– Professor of Ecology at University of Greenwich, Steven Belmain, PhD
Disused houses can make the perfect home for rats. Credit: PA Images

Dr Dougie Clarke at the University of Huddersfield says the rise in super rats has become a "time bomb" built up over generations of rats.

He said:

I think people should be concerned about these rats and these resistant rats because of public health concerns.

They carry disease and various other bacteria and viruses - and they also damage buildings and they also eat grains and storage and agriculture.

They cost billions of pounds of damage worldwide.

It's a sort time bomb of resistance building up over generations of rats.

– Dr Dougie Clarke at University of Huddersfield 
Rats are a common sight in London, but they are becoming more invincible. Credit: Peter Jordan/PA

The maximum life span of a rat is three years, but most in the wild would be lucky if they manage one.

– Professor of Ecology at University of Greenwich, Steven Belmain, PhD

Changes and cuts to council services are also damaging the fight against super rats.

A freedom of information request for the Tonight programme has revealed that nearly a third of all councils have no in-house pest control service at all.

  • More than a third of these charge £50 or more for the service of getting rid of rats (this was out of a sample of 200 councils)
  • 67% of all councils have rubbish collected every other week (this was out of all 406 councils)
  • 48% of all councils have reduced their street cleaning budget (this was out of a sample of 200 councils)
  • And just under half of all councils have seen a reduction in funds put aside for street cleaning (this was out of a sample of 200 councils).

Conservationist and presenter Bill Oddie told ITV of his personal battle with rats at his home:

A vital decision on whether harder poisons may be used outdoor is expected by the Government in the autumn.

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