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Biocontrol and the possum problem (V0040)

AgResearch scientists Dr Doug Eckery and Dr Warwick Grant explain their research into using biocontrol to manage New Zealand's possum problem.

In particular, the use of a roundworm parasite is being investigated. The roundworm naturally infects possums, but doesn't seem to harm them. Researchers want to modify the worm so that when it infects a possum it will make the possum infertile.

Transcript

Dr Doug Eckery (AgResearch): There aren’t any natural predators or enemies to possums in NZ, so we are having to create something that will act in the same capacity. There are viruses and some other organisms that do infect possums, but none of them have the virulence,or they are not powerful enough to actually kill the animal, and control it in that sense, and so we are looking at them more as a vector to use to spread a biological control to the population.

Dr Warwick Grant (AgResearch):The organism that we are particularly focussed on is the nematode parasite, a little worm that lives normally in the small intestine or the gut of a possum. The idea here is that we take our relatively harmless little nematode that possums don’t seem to mind at all, and so the possums don’t become particularly immune to these nematodes for example, and we genetically modify that nematode so that now it produces something that will interfere with some bit of possum biology, and the bit of possum biology that we are particularly interested in trying to interfere with is the reproduction of the possum.

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