Scientists from Cambridge and Edinburgh universities have developed genetically modified chickens that can't transmit bird flu infections.
According to the researchers, while the birds still got sick and died when 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.
The chickens could offer a way to improve economic and food security in parts of the world where bird flu is the biggest threat, but using them would probably raise farm costs. "It will inevitably be more expensive because you'd have to use the products of breeding companies to stock the producers," said Helen Sang from the Roslin Institute at Edinburgh University. In addition, for now, only large poultry producers could take advantage of the new chicken, until scientists create birds that can be bred on small farms.
Next, the researchers plan to expand their work to making chickens that are fully resistant to bird flu.