Researchers at Egypt's Desert Research Center are asking the country's government to support implementing poultry farms in desert regions, saying that such a move could reduce the risk of transmitting avian flu to humans.

During a pilot project that ran from December 2011 to February 2012, researchers on five small poultry farms in the Egyptian desert adopted procedures that helped avoid the transmission of infection, introduced indigenous desert plants into poultry diets and evaluated varieties of poultry capable of resisting hot temperatures and drought. "With the emergence of the avian flu virus in Egypt four years ago, the idea of moving poultry farms out of residential areas ​​was raised, as having farms adjacent or close to housing was one of the main reasons why the virus was...being easily passed from poultry to humans," said Ismail Abdul Jalil, a former Desert Research Center president and leader of the research team that implemented the project.

While the initial costs of setting up a farm in the desert are 10 percent more than a regular farm, production costs could be less. "Providing poultry with food represents 70 percent of the price of breeding them, so by depending partially on desert plants, the price of poultry-rearing in arid regions could decrease," said Ra'afat Khedr, president of the Desert Research Center. "Furthermore, the pilot project showed that egg production was not affected by new nutrition and diets."

The project was funded by a US$600,000 grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development.