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Islander
01-16-11, 06:26 PM
By Kate Kelland, Health and Science Correspondent
Thu Jan 13, 2011

LONDON (Reuters) - British scientists have developed genetically modified (GM) chickens that cannot transmit bird flu infections -- a step that in future could reduce the risk of avian flu spreading and causing deadly epidemics in humans.

Scientists from Cambridge and Edinburgh universities said that while the transgenic chickens still got sick and died when they were exposed to H5N1 bird flu, they didn't transmit the virus to other chickens they came into contact with. "Preventing virus transmission in chickens should reduce the economic impact of the disease and reduce the risk posed to people," said Laurence Tiley, of Cambridge's department of veterinary medicine, one of the lead researchers on the study.

H5N1 bird flu has been circulating in Asia and the Middle East, with occasional outbreaks in Europe, since 2003 and has killed or forced the destruction of hundreds of millions of birds, according to the world animal health organization OIE. It rarely infects people but when it does it is deadly: the World Health Organization has documented 516 cases in people since 2003 and the virus has killed 306 of them. Experts say the danger is that the virus will evolve into a form that people can easily catch and pass to one another, causing the transmission rate to soar and producing a pandemic in which millions of people could die.

ECONOMIC AND FOOD SECURITY THREAT
In Southeast Asia, China and parts of Africa, bird flu is already a major economic and food security issue, and also poses a constant threat of being transmitted to humans. South Korea (http://www.reuters.com/places/south-korea), already battling an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease, said this week it was raising its bird flu alert level after detecting H5N1 bird flu at poultry farms.

Helen Sang from the Roslin Institute at Edinburgh University, who worked with Tiley, told a joint briefing the GM chickens could offer a way to improve economic and food security in parts of the world where bird flu is a major threat, but said using them would probably add slightly to farming costs. "Countries like China are interested in the possibility of genetic modification to protect their poultry stocks and people," she said. "It will inevitably be more expensive because you'd have to use the products of breeding companies to stock the producers." At the same time, the need for vaccination and losses from whole flocks being infected should be reduced.

While large poultry producers could benefit from this early type of transgenic bird, smaller "backyard" farmers would need to wait until scientists create birds that can be bred on small farms. "That would be a means of ensuring that the birds these small farmers bred themselves still carried the protective transgene," Tiley said.

To breed their GM chickens, the researchers introduced a new gene into them 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 recognizing the decoy molecule instead of the viral genes and this interferes with the virus' replication cycle.
After producing the modified chickens, they infected 10 of them and 10 normal chickens with H5N1 bird flu. Like the normal chickens, the transgenic birds became sick with the virus, but they did not transmit the infection on to other chickens kept in the same pen with them -- even if those chickens were normal, non-transgenic birds. The study was published in Science.

The researchers said they now plan to work on trying to make chickens that are fully resistant to bird flu rather than just blocking bird-to-bird transmission.
(Editing by Jason Neely (http://blogs.reuters.com/search/journalist.php?edition=us&n=jason.neely&))

http://tinyurl.com/48xkc3h

mellowsong
01-16-11, 08:38 PM
We're supposed to believe this when the flu viruses mutate so frequently???? Yeah, right...and what will this frankenchicken do to the person who eats it?

Reesacat
01-16-11, 08:40 PM
This is scary-if they were breeding chickens that were naturally resistant to the bird flu would be one thing, but the genetic tinkering could backfire and we could get a super bird flu instead................

Aaltrude
01-16-11, 08:52 PM
I am mostly concerned about the potential detrimental health effects of eating the chickens or their eggs.

Islander
01-16-11, 10:10 PM
We're supposed to believe this when the flu viruses mutate so frequently???? Yeah, right...and what will this frankenchicken do to the person who eats it?

Well, you won't have to remember to get your annual flu shot.... :p

highlander
01-17-11, 07:31 PM
They need to put down the chemistry kits and step away from the chicken. Back away slowly...

Reesacat
01-17-11, 07:36 PM
They need to put down the chemistry kits and step away from the chicken. Back away slowly...
ROTFL!!! Good one, highlander!

bmc65
01-21-11, 08:37 PM
Part of what is so f'ed-up about this is the time, energy, and toxic science spent to find a way to perpetuate the factory farming model, which has a huge host of other problems.
Highlander. Thanks for the laugh.