Researchers followed the gene-edited birds for more than two years and found no adverse effects on their health or egg production.
“This suggests a potential mechanism to reduce chicken susceptibility to avian influenza,” emphasizes Carol Cardona, a veterinarian and professor of avian health at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine, who was not involved in the study. “But even if we protected all the chickens on the planet, the flu wouldn’t spread anywhere.” Avian Flu The substance has been found in more than 100 different species of birds.
Vaccination and genetics against avian influenza
The fact that some infectious disease outbreaks mean The virus still has the potential to infect other birds And can “escape” the effects of the vaccine by mutating and stopping using the ANP32A protein to reproduce. In fact, when British researchers took virus samples from gene-edited infected chickens, they found that the part of the virus that interacts with the protein had some mutations. “The influenza virus replicates very quickly and every time it enters a new host, it has the opportunity to adapt and change,” Cardona emphasized.
At a press conference, Barclay said these viral mutations did not make the chickens sicker. The team also wanted to make sure the changes didn’t cause more severe infections in humans, so they added the mutated virus to human airway cells cultured in a petri dish. They found that these mutations did not cause the virus to grow in a way that would pose a greater risk to humans.
It’s unclear how the genetically modified chickens would resist more aggressive avian flu viruses, such as H5N1, which was not tested in the study. Barclays said it chose H9N2, which is considered a low-pathogenic virus that causes little or no signs of illness, in part because it is more common. Furthermore, deliberately infecting chickens with the H5N1 virus raises animal welfare concerns as it can cause severe disease and is often fatal.
The authors also discovered two other related proteins, ANP32B and ANP32E, which they believe will prevent the virus from replicating. In chicken cells grown in the lab, they edited the genes encoding the three proteins and exposed them to influenza viruses. The edits successfully stopped the virus from growing in cells, but researchers have not yet raised chickens with the three variants.
Susan Lamont, a poultry genetics expert at Iowa State University in the United States, believes that multiple genetic modifications can reduce the possibility of virus escape. “When you start doing that, it becomes harder for the virus population to find a way to get around that animal’s resistance,” he said.