Three synthetic steroids were evaluated as potential chemosterilants for rodent control. Ethinyl oestradiol, methyl testosterone or Org 5933, a synthetic gestagen, were incorporated into paraffin blocks containing cereal grains and offered to laboratory rats and mice in addition to their standard laboratory diet. Ethinyl oestradiol (50 mg kg−1 paraffin block) was highly unpalatable to female rats, and the amount of steroid ingested was not sufficient to interfere with their oestrous cycles or inhibit ovulation. Methyl testosterone (5000 mg kg−1 paraffin block), although not as palatable as untreated blocks, was effective in inducing almost immediate infertility in female rats and mice at an ingested dose of about 35 μg g−1 body weight day−1. This infertility persisted throughout the duration of treatment, and lasted for several weeks after the cessation of treatment. Male rats became infertile after 3 months of treatment owing to suppression of spermatogenesis. Female rats developed a specific aversion to methyl testosterone when they were pregnant or lactating; it was therefore not possible to masculinize the brains of their female offspring. In mice, the androgen treatment induced high levels of aggression in the females so that they fought with males and with one another. One female died of her wounds. Org 5933 (4 mg kg−1 paraffin block) was highly palatable to female rats and mice, and at doses of about 420 ng g−1 body weight day−1 was effective in inhibiting ovulation in rats within 3 to 4 days after the start of treatment. This infertility persisted throughout the duration of treatment, and the animals conceived within 5 days of cessation of treatment. A dose of about 930 ng g−1 body weight day−1 was not completely effective in inhibiting ovulation in mice, but females that became pregnant during treatment gave birth to dead young. When the gestagen was given to female rats and mice in the last few days of pregnancy, the duration of gestation was significantly prolonged, and most young were born dead; some of the females also died in labour. The gestagen did not appear to inhibit lactogenesis, since the few animals that gave birth to live young reared them normally for the first 5 days of life. These results show that either methyl testosterone or Org 5933 in paraffin blocks could perhaps be used as a chemosterilant for the control of rat and mouse populations. The optimal strategy would be to use the chemosterilant when the population density of rodents was lowest, for example at the end of the winter, or following a poisoning campaign with conventional rodenticides, thereby preventing the survivors from reproducing and spreading genetic resistance to the poison.
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