Trojan horse pill could kill mussels


Trojan horse pill could kill mussels


Scientists have developed a tiny pill that can kill the Zebra mussel, an invasive species that's threatening native species and damaging the environment.

A team of scientists working at Cambridge University have produced a so-called "trojan horse" pill or "biobullet" which can be administered to waterways infested by the non-native freshwater Zebra mussel, Dreissena polymorpha.

The tiny "pills" are microcapsules laced with potassium chloride and are taken in through the filter-feeding mechanism of the mussels and release the chemical, which slowly kills the mussel. The microcapsules are harmless to other organisms.

Zebra mussels reproduce so much that their colonies can cover virtually all solid surfaces in some rivers and cause industrial problems by clogging pipe inlets and drains. They can also out-compete other mussel species.

Zebra mussels are a major aquatic pest in the USA. A severe infestation at Lough Erne led to industrial modifications to the area's water treatment unit costing over 100,000.

A small number of specimens were found in Northern Ireland's Lough Neagh in November 2005.

The Zebra mussel is considered one of the world's top 100 invasive species and is native to the Caspian sea in eastern Europe.