GM chickens that don't transmit bird flu developed

January 13, 2011
GM chickens that don't transmit bird flu developed

( -- Chickens genetically modified to prevent them spreading bird flu have been produced by researchers at the Universities of Cambridge and Edinburgh.

The scientists have successfully developed genetically modified (transgenic) chickens that do not transmit avian to other chickens with which they are in contact. This genetic modification has the potential to stop outbreaks spreading within poultry flocks. This would not only protect the health of domestic poultry but could also reduce the risk of bird flu epidemics leading to new flu virus epidemics in the human population.

The study, funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), is to be published in the Friday, 14 January issue of the journal Science.

Dr Laurence Tiley, Senior Lecturer in Molecular Virology from the University of Cambridge, Department of Veterinary Medicine, said: "Chickens are potential bridging hosts that can enable new strains of flu to be transmitted to humans. Preventing in chickens should reduce the economic impact of the disease and reduce the risk posed to people exposed to the infected birds. The genetic modification we describe is a significant first step along the path to developing chickens that are completely resistant to . These particular birds are only intended for research purposes, not for consumption."

Professor Helen Sang, from The Roslin Institute at the University of Edinburgh, said, "The results achieved in this study are very encouraging. Using genetic modification to introduce genetic changes that cannot be achieved by animal breeding demonstrates the potential of GM to improve animal welfare in the . This work could also form the basis for improving economic and food security in many regions of the world where bird flu is a significant problem."

To produce these chickens, the Cambridge and Edinburgh scientists introduced a new gene that manufactures a small "decoy" molecule that mimics an important control element of the bird flu virus. The replication machinery of the virus is tricked into recognising the decoy molecule instead of the viral genome and this interferes with the replication cycle of the virus.

When the transgenic chickens were infected with avian flu, they became sick but did not transmit the infection on to other chickens kept in the same pen with them. This was the case even if the other chickens were normal (non-transgenic) birds.

Dr Tiley continued, "The decoy mimics an essential part of the flu virus genome that is identical for all strains of influenza A. We expect the decoy to work against all strains of avian influenza and that the virus will find it difficult to evolve to escape the effects of the decoy. This is quite different from conventional flu vaccines, which need to be updated in the face of virus evolution as they tend only to protect against closely matching strains of virus and do not always prevent spread within a flock."

Professor Douglas Kell, BBSRC Chief Executive, said: "Infectious diseases of livestock represent a significant threat to global food security and the potential of pathogens, such as bird flu, to jump to humans and become pandemic has been identified by the Government as a top level national security risk. The BBSRC funds world-class research to help to protect the UK from such eventualities and the present approach provides a very exciting example of novel approaches to producing disease-resistant poultry."

Explore further: Japanese scientists track bird flu strains

More information: The paper 'Suppression of avian influenza transmission in genetically modified chickens' will be published in the 14 December 2011 edition of Science.

Related Stories

Japanese scientists track bird flu strains

July 11, 2005

The Japanese government will destroy 8,500 chickens at a poultry farm in Bando, Ibaraki prefecture, after scientists found genes of the avian flu virus.

Bird flu outbreak reported in Russia

October 1, 2007

Hundreds of thousands of birds at a poultry farm in Russia's southern Krasnodar Terroritory are being destroyed following an outbreak of bird flu.

Bird flu vaccine protects people and pets

October 20, 2008

A single vaccine could be used to protect chickens, cats and humans against deadly flu pandemics, according to an article published in the November issue of the Journal of General Virology. The vaccine protects birds and ...

Cause of bird flu outbreak tracked

January 19, 2007

Agriculture officials in Japan say a bird flu outbreak last week involved a highly virulent strain of the flu virus.

1918 and 2009 H1N1 flu probably not spread by birds

January 19, 2010

The two strains of the H1N1 influenza virus responsible for the 1918 and 2009 global flu pandemics do not cause disease in birds. The results of the study, published in the February issue of the Journal of General Virology, ...

Less virulent bird flu may infect humans

September 14, 2005

Italian researchers say they've determined, for the first time, a less-virulent strain of avian influenza virus might spread from poultry to humans.

Recommended for you

How bacteria maintain and recover their shape

July 26, 2017

Bacteria come in all shapes and sizes—some are straight as a rod, others twist like a corkscrew. Shape plays an important role in how bacteria infiltrate and attack cells in the body. The helical shape of Helicobacter pylori, ...

How plant architectures mimic subway networks

July 26, 2017

It might seem like a tomato plant and a subway system don't have much in common, but both, it turns out, are networks that strive to make similar tradeoffs between cost and performance.


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

1 / 5 (1) Jan 14, 2011
Great job, this shows the potential of gm, thats the way to eliminate antibiotics use in the farms!
I wonder what shits have haters to say now for that, all I know is it will be funny.
not rated yet Jan 14, 2011
I thought the same thing. GM haters will definitely be up in arms about this, I'm eagerly awaiting what problem they can come up with.
1 / 5 (1) Jan 14, 2011
The hard part is sustaining biodiversity in poultry. That is, instead of this one improved strain, the scientists should make an improved copy of all chicken races in the whole world. (Which of course would be so expensive that it's never gonna happen.)

Havin only one (or just a few) breeds is nice, until the day some illness starts spreading in them. If they are similar, then that illness will spread much faster and wider.
1 / 5 (1) Jan 14, 2011

In theory, you'd cross-breed the GM birds with the normal stock of each type of chicken. Some offspring would therefore have the new trait, some wouldn't. The fact that roughly half the crop would be immune should make it extremely unlikely to see mass infections.

However, there is an obvious problem with any GM solution, which is to say, "New genes and new protiens equals new vulnerabilities."

A hacker might design a new virus that turns the computer's anti-virus against itself.

Similarly, modified animals and plants could be vulnerable to common things "normal flora" so to speak, normally "harmless" bacteria and viruses which we don't even normally think of as causing disease in the specified species. To me, this is especially dangerous in certain types of GM where they take genes from one species and introduce them to another (i.e. eel to salmon).

You are correct. The most likely problem here is vulnerability of a single "strain" of bird to a new virus.
3 / 5 (2) Jan 14, 2011
So for example, let's say they do the GM to make birds immune to bird flu. Well, a few decades from now the whole world is using these GM chickens because they never get the bird flu. Suddenly, a new bird pox emerges, which has nothing to do with the flu. Since all of the GM birds came from the same basic stock, there is the danger that in this situation they might all be very vulnerable to the new, prviously un-identified pathogen because the choice to go with the GM chickens has left the gene pool too specialized and not diverse.

So in the end, engineering the chickens to resist one disease will lead to genetic bottleneck which will make them more vulnerable to other diseases known and un-known.
1 / 5 (1) Jan 14, 2011
Ahhh thats why it is better not to use this gm chickens....ok this make perfect sense.
And just about the record can you tell us a real example of how one breed is resistant to some chicken illnes and another isnt, not teoretically but real example. And if this gene are going to be applied , this doesn mean only this breed will be used, there are chickens for eggs, for meat ets., and about the diversity there are lots of people that looks after starnge breeds of chickens, the variety is much greater than you think, and by cross breading them you can take this gene pretty easily.
1 / 5 (1) Jan 14, 2011
And just about the record can you tell us a real example of how one breed is resistant to some chicken illnes and another isnt, not teoretically but real example

Eh? This is a known fact in the realm of pathology in humans and in animals. Although in modern times it isn't "politically correct" to say so, historically, different races of people have been shown to be more or less vulnerable to various strains of bacteria and viruses.

Smallpox was one of the things which helped finish off the easter island civilization. The Dutch sailors were carriers of the disease and transmitted it to the natives, who had no natural resistance.
1 / 5 (1) Jan 14, 2011
Yes you have your point, but when it comes to overcome some deadly disease it is much more usefull to use gm than naturally to look for resistant breed or strain. GM has big potential which will solve lots of problems, you can use the diversity not only within the species but in the whole nature(and live forms have emerged from one bacteria , we are all distant relatives after all), and even to come up with new things.It is much more smart to bet on this than to what you say, clearly becauce even in this early stage of using gm lots of problems are being solved perfectly.
In this case the chicken is resistant to something that will kill any bird, and birds are really diverse.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.