Meat & Livestock News

UK Scientists Make Headway in Using Gene-Editing to Combat Avian Influenza

Researchers from three leading UK institutions have made significant strides in using gene-editing techniques to combat the spread of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI), commonly known as bird flu. The study could mark an important first step in safeguarding poultry from this lethal virus.

The Research Approach

The collaborative research, involving scientists from the University of Edinburgh, Imperial College London, and the Pirbright Institute, focuses on altering a specific segment of chicken DNA.

This segment is exploited by the HPAI virus to replicate within the bird. By editing this DNA section, the researchers aim to inhibit the virus’s ability to spread.

Key Findings

In their experiments, the scientists discovered that editing the DNA segment responsible for producing a vulnerable protein called ANP32A led to promising results.

When chickens with the edited DNA were exposed to a standard dose of the H9N2-UDL strain of avian influenza, nine out of ten remained uninfected.

Moreover, when these gene-edited birds were subjected to an artificially high dose of the virus, only half became infected. Importantly, the viral load in these infected birds was significantly lower than what is usually observed in non-edited chickens.

Future Directions

While the results are encouraging, further research is needed to extend this protection to other potential vulnerabilities in the bird’s genetic makeup. The scientists note that additional genetic modifications must be explored to defend against viruses that could exploit different protein pathways in the birds.

By employing gene-editing techniques, this groundbreaking study offers a new avenue for protecting poultry from the devastating impacts of avian influenza.

However, more work lies ahead to ensure comprehensive protection for birds against various strains of the virus.