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Scientists Find Way to Stop Spread of Bird Flu in Chickens

Genetic modification prevented transmission from sick birds to others in same pen

THURSDAY, Jan. 13, 2011 (HealthDay News) -- Scientists have developed genetically modified chickens that don't transmit bird flu to other chickens.

This achievement could stop bird flu outbreaks from spreading within poultry flocks and possibly reduce the risk of bird flu epidemics that could lead to flu virus epidemics in humans, according to the researchers at the Universities of Cambridge and Edinburgh in the United Kingdom.

The scientists developed the chickens by introducing a gene that makes a "decoy" molecule that mimics a crucial control element of the bird flu virus. This molecule interferes with the replication cycle of the virus.

When the scientists infected the genetically modified chickens with bird flu, they became sick but did not transmit the virus to other chickens in the same pen.

The study is published in the Jan. 14 issue of the journal Science.

"Chickens are potential bridging hosts that can enable new strains of flu to be transmitted to humans. Preventing virus transmission in chickens should reduce the economic impact of the disease and reduce the risk posed to people exposed to the infected birds," Dr. Laurence Tiley, senior lecturer in molecular virology in the veterinary medicine department at University of Cambridge, said in a university news release.

"The genetic modification we describe is a significant first step along the path to developing chickens that are completely resistant to avian [bird] flu. These particular birds are only intended for research purposes, not for consumption," he added.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about bird flu.

SOURCE: University of Cambridge, news release, Jan. 13, 2011
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