Tuesday 29 November 2022 02:45 PM Scientists on brink of creating bird flu-resistant CHICKEN that could spell end ... trends now

Tuesday 29 November 2022 02:45 PM Scientists on brink of creating bird flu-resistant CHICKEN that could spell end ... trends now
Tuesday 29 November 2022 02:45 PM Scientists on brink of creating bird flu-resistant CHICKEN that could spell end ... trends now

Tuesday 29 November 2022 02:45 PM Scientists on brink of creating bird flu-resistant CHICKEN that could spell end ... trends now

Genetically-edited chickens that are immune to bird flu could be a reality within a decade, scientists believe.

The breakthrough could spell an end to supermarket shortages of eggs and poultry that are caused by avian influenza.

Britain is currently being ravaged by its biggest ever bird flu outbreak, with health chiefs culling nearly 4million birds in a year and ordering the lockdown of all kept birds in a bid to stall the spread.

As well as emptying shop shelves of eggs, the spike in cases has sparked fears of a turkey shortfall this Christmas

Chickens could be genetically edited with a decade to stop them from catching bird flu and threatening supplies of eggs and poultry, scientists say

Chickens could be genetically edited with a decade to stop them from catching bird flu and threatening supplies of eggs and poultry, scientists say 

The UK is in the grips of an avian flu crisis, with nearly 4million birds killed, supermarket shelves empty of eggs and Christmas turkey shortages expected. Pictured: Map showing a prevention zone (red), the area where mandatory housing is already in place (purple) and the areas under a 10km surveillance zone (grey)

The UK is in the grips of an avian flu crisis, with nearly 4million birds killed, supermarket shelves empty of eggs and Christmas turkey shortages expected. Pictured: Map showing a prevention zone (red), the area where mandatory housing is already in place (purple) and the areas under a 10km surveillance zone (grey)

A record numberconfirmedEngland, Scotland and Wales last winter. The graph shows the prevalence of bird flu in the UK from 2006 to 2022

A record number of bird flu cases were confirmed across England, Scotland and Wales last winter. The graph shows the prevalence of bird flu in the UK from 2006 to 2022, including cases (red line), deaths among the animal due to the virus (green) and the number that have been culled over concerns about bird flu (blue)

Bird flu outbreak: Everything you need to know 

What is it? 

Bird flu is an infectious type of influenza that spreads among birds.

In rare cases, it can be transmitted to humans through close contact with a dead or alive infected bird.

This includes touching infected birds, their droppings or bedding. People can also catch bird flu if they kill or prepare infected poultry for eating. 

Wild birds are carriers, especially through migration.

As they cluster together to breed, the virus spreads rapidly and is then carried to other parts of the globe.

New strains tend to appear first in Asia, from where more than 60 species of shore birds, waders and waterfowl, including plovers, godwits and ducks, head off to Alaska to breed and mix with various migratory birds from the Americas. Others go west and infect European species.

What strain is currently spreading? 

H5N1.

So far the new virus has been killed 97million birds and poultry globally and 3.8million in the UK since September 2021.

The unprecedented level of deaths had led some experts to say this is the deadliest variant so far.

Can it infect people? 

Yes, but just 864 people have been infected with H5N1 globally since 2003 from 20 countries.

The risk to people has been deemed 'very low'.

But people are strongly urged not to touch sick or dead birds because the virus is lethal, killing 53 per cent of people it does manage to infect.

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The new technique, developed three years ago, removes a section of the birds' DNA that the virus uses to replicate. 

Successful tests were carried out in chicken cells.

But Dr Mike McGrew, who heads the study, revealed results involving live chickens will be published shortly.

Dr Mike McGrew, a senior lecturer at the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh, told The Daily Telegraph: 'We have been working on this project since those first results were published back in 2019 and we have results.

'These are described in a scientific paper that is currently under review in a journal.

'Breeding a chicken completely resistant to infection by avian influenza viruses is a scientific challenge and the research into the efficacy of any genetic resistance must be carefully developed.'

He added: 'If a resistant chicken were developed it would take five to 10 years before the genetic change was introduced into production flocks of chickens.'

The genome-editing method, which uses technology called Crispr, is akin to using a pair of molecular scissors to cut DNA at specific points to delete or replace them with alternate

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