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The current status of anticoagulant resistance in rats and mice in the UK

Buckle, A. and Prescott, C., (2012) The current status of anticoagulant resistance in rats and mice in the UK. Technical Report. Rodenticide Resistance Action Group, British Pest Control Association. pp35.

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Abstract/Summary

Introduction: Resistance to anticoagulants in Norway rats (Rattus norvegicus) and house mice (Mus domesticus) has been studied in the UK since the early 1960s. In no other country in the world is our understanding of resistance phenomena so extensive and profound. Almost every aspect of resistance in the key rodent target species has been examined in laboratory and field trials and results obtained by independent researchers have been published. It is the principal purpose of this document to present a short synopsis of this information. More recently, however, the development of genetical techniques has provided a definitive means of detection of resistant genotypes among pest rodent populations. Preliminary information from a number of such surveys will also be presented. Resistance in Norway rats: A total of nine different anticoagulant resistance mutations (single nucleotide polymorphisms or SNPs) are found among Norway rats in the UK. In no other country worldwide are present so many different forms of Norway rat resistance. Among these nine SNPs, five are known to confer on rats that carry them a significant degree of resistance to anticoagulant rodenticides. These mutations are: L128Q, Y139S, L120Q, Y139C and Y139F. The latter three mutations confer, to varying degrees, practical resistance to bromadiolone and difenacoum, the two second-generation anticoagulants in predominant use in the UK. It is the recommendation of RRAG that bromadiolone and difenacoum should not be used against rats carrying the L120Q, Y139C and Y139F mutations because this will promote the spread of resistance and jeopardise the long-term efficacy of anticoagulants. Brodifacoum, flocoumafen and difethialone are effective against these three genotypes but cannot presently be used because of the regulatory restriction that they can only be applied against rats that are living and feeding predominantly indoors. Our understanding of the geographical distribution of Norway rat resistance in incomplete but is rapidly increasing. In particular, the mapping of the focus of L120Q Norway rat resistance in central-southern England by DNA sequencing is well advanced. We now know that rats carrying this resistance mutation are present across a large part of the counties of Hampshire, Berkshire and Wiltshire, and the resistance spreads into Avon, Oxfordshire and Surrey. It is also found, perhaps as outlier foci, in south-west Scotland and East Sussex. L120Q is currently the most severe form of anticoagulant resistance found in Norway rats and is prevalent over a considerable part of central-southern England. A second form of advanced Norway rat resistance is conferred by the Y139C mutation. This is noteworthy because it occurs in at least four different foci that are widely geographically dispersed, namely in Dumfries and Galloway, Gloucestershire, Yorkshire and Norfolk. Once again, bromadiolone and difenacoum are not recommended for use against rats carrying this genotype and a concern of RRAG is that continued applications of resisted active substances may result in Y139C becoming more or less ubiquitous across much of the UK. Another type of advanced resistance, the Y139F mutation, is present in Kent and Sussex. This means that Norway rats, carrying some degree of resistance to bromadiolone and difenacoum, are now found from the south coast of Kent, west into the city of Bristol, to Yorkshire in the north-east and to the south-west of Scotland. This difficult situation can only deteriorate further where these three genotypes exist and resisted anticoagulants are predominantly used against them. Resistance in house mice: House mouse is not so well understood but the presence in the UK of two resistant genotypes, L128S and Y139C, is confirmed. House mice are naturally tolerant to anticoagulants and such is the nature of this tolerance, and the presence of genetical resistance, that house mice resistant to the first-generation anticoagulants are considered to be widespread in the UK. Consequently, baits containing warfarin, sodium warfarin, chlorophacinone and coumatetralyl are not approved for use against mice. This regulatory position is endorsed by RRAG. Baits containing brodifacoum, flocoumafen and difethialone are effective against house mice and may be applied in practice because house mouse infestations are predominantly indoors. There are some reports of resistance among mice in some areas to the second-generation anticoagulant bromadiolone, while difenacoum remains largely efficacious. Alternatives to anticoagulants: The use of habitat manipulation, that is the removal of harbourage, denial of the availability of food and the prevention of ingress to structures, is an essential component of sustainable rodent pest management. All are of importance in the management of resistant rodents and have the advantage of not selecting for resistant genotypes. The use of these techniques may be particularly valuable in preventing the build-up of rat infestations. However, none can be used to remove any sizeable extant rat infestation and for practical reasons their use against house mice is problematic. Few alternative chemical interventions are available in the European Union because of the removal from the market of zinc phosphide, calciferol and bromethalin. Our virtual complete reliance on the use of anticoagulants for the chemical control of rodents in the UK, and more widely in the EU, calls for improved schemes for resistance management. Of course, these might involve the use of alternatives to anticoagulant rodenticides. Also important is an increasing knowledge of the distribution of resistance mutations in rats and mice and the use of only fully effective anticoagulants against them.

Item Type:Report (Technical Report)
Divisions:Faculty of Life Sciences > School of Biological Sciences > Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
ID Code:40323
Publisher:Rodenticide Resistance Action Group

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