British scientists produce genetically modified chickens



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Chicks in a hatch cage

Chicks in a hatch cage

LONDON (Reuters) – British scientists are developing genetically modified chickens designed to completely fight flu in a new approach in an effort to prevent a deadly human pandemic.

Wendy Parkley, a professor of virology at Imperial College London and co-chair of the project, said the first generation of modified chickens would be hatched later this year at the Roslyn Institute at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.

DNA has been modified for birds using a new gene modification technique known as Cresper. In this case, "adjustments" are made to remove a part of the protein that is usually dependent on the flu virus, making the chicken truly resistant to flu.

Barkley said the idea was to produce poultry that could not catch the flu and was a "barrier between wild birds and humans."

Health and infectious diseases experts in the world show the risk of influenza pandemic in humans as one of their main concerns.

The 1918 Spanish flu pandemic killed around 50 million people.

The biggest fear now is that a deadly type of bird flu will spread from wild birds through birds to humans and then mutate into an epidemic in the air that can easily spread between humans.

"If we can prevent influenza viruses from moving from wild birds to chickens, we will stop the epidemic that comes from the source," Barkley said.

One of the main obstacles to this approach is the concern of poultry producers in relation to public acceptance.

"People eat food from livestock that has been modified for decades in traditional hybridization, but may worry about eating GM food," he said.

Source: Reuters

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