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<b>SYDNEY - Australia, regularly hit by the worst mouse plagues in the world, is claiming an international first with a genetically modified herpes virus to knock out population explosions of the small rodent.</b><br><br><br><br><br><br>
The government-backed Co-operative Research Centre (CRC) for Biological Control of Pest Animals has produced a genetically modified herpes virus that makes sexually prolific female mice infertile, by blocking sperm from entering their eggs.<br><br><br><br>
"We know it works in a shoe box-level experimental setting. Now we want to try it in a field setting," CRC director Tony Pea**** told Reuters yesterday.<br><br><br><br>
The CRC is applying to Australia's watchdog on transgenic applications, the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator, for permission to trial the herpes virus in sample populations of mice, in rodent-proof pens.<br><br><br><br>
The disease can only be spread by mouse-to-mouse contact, after innoculation of rodents with gene-spliced material containing the modified virus.<br><br><br><br>
Rigorous testing to prove the virus is "species specific" - which means that it cannot be transferred to other animals or humans - will be required before expected full release in three years.<br><br><br><br>
The main beneficiary of the virus would be Australian farmers, who grow one of the world's biggest grain export crops.<br><br><br><br>
Australia's mouse population explodes into uncountable billions every four years or so, usually at the end of a drought such as one now lingering after decimating 2002/03 crops.<br><br><br><br>
Pea**** says a bad mouse plague can cost over A$150 million ($90 million) in lost crops, while a moderate plague would cost A$50 million.<br><br><br><br>
The cost is also social.<br><br><br><br>
"If you meet people who have lived through a mouse plague, they physically shudder. It's not a pleasant thing to put your kids to bed at night and shake out the bed clothes to get the few mice out," Pea**** said. "It's really revolting."<br><br><br><br>
The genetically modified mouse herpes virus is in a tradition of Australian leadership in biological pest control.<br><br><br><br>
The use of myxomatosis disease fifty years ago and calici virus 10 years ago to control multiplying rabbit populations delivered tens of billions of dollars worth of benefits, Pea**** said. He estimates calici alone was worth A$6 billion for agricultural industries.<br><br><br><br>
Parts of Australia previously over-run with rabbits were now habitable, while vegetation was returning to arid areas of the country, he said.
 

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hmmmmm . . .<br><br>
I dont know what to think of this. On one hand, its bad, denying life to other and that can of worms.<br><br>
on the other, the fact that it will go ahead almost whatever I do, I think It is better then directly killing the mice.
 

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Sheep are the worst cause of environmental damage to the Australian environment (after humans). But of course we want lots of them.<br><br><br><br>
I've seen up close what myxomatosis does to a Rabbit...... it is disgusting that humans could inflict that on any animal. It's not pretty.
 

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Now I'm waiting for this herpes virus to spread to humans after a bit of mutation. I hope it won't, but I thnk that there is a minute possibility that it could happen.<br><br><br><br>
The problem isn't that they have too many mice, but that they don't have enough cats! I'm sure that Jasper could do with a trip to Australia!!
 

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I noticed a Rabbit in the grounds of a place I do occassional work for. As I walked near it, it never ran off. So I looked closer and saw that it had a lot of gunk around it's face and it's eyes had sealed shut, and it's mouth and nostrils seemed to be going that way too. It's ears looked bad, and it was extremely thin, and was obviously scared ****less, the way it was shaking and breathing.... knowing I was there but not being able to properly sense me (sight etc.).<br><br><br><br>
I grabbed a bucket and towel from the building to somehow try to catch it. As I got really close it took off. It ran along, and kept bumping into trees.... and every time it did it seemed to get more agitated. Then it reached the perimetre fence, at a section where on the other side there's a 20 foot drop down onto a major road. It was running up and down, along the fence, bashing into it..... I couldn't keep up and eventually it got under the fence in a hole somewhere, heading towards the cliff and then disappeared (for all I know it may have avoided the drop.... there's lots of grass so I couldn't see).<br><br><br><br>
Later I described the Rabbit's symptons to the care-taker there and he said it as myxomatosis. You'd really have to see it to understand how horrible it is (it was like I could almost smell the pain, fear and confusion of the poor thing).<br><br><br><br>
As far as I know there is still a bunch of Rabbits living there (I see them at times, but haven't for a while because I haven't done as much work there this year), but definitely not in numbers anywhere near plague proportions. However these horrific man-made viruses don't discriminate.
 
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