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New research uncovers poultry resistant to AI

Some chickens are almost completely resistant to a serious strain of avian influenza, new research has shown.

The study, carried out at the Pirbright Institute, found birds that carried the strain of avian influenza but were genetically resistant to the disease only shed the virus through their respiratory tract and for a limited period of time.

The researchers discovered that this was the only relevant means of spreading the virus and that resistant birds were therefore completely unable to initiate or sustain a chain of infection.

Genetic restriction

Further results in the study suggest that this could be due to a genetic restriction within the animal that stops the virus spreading when inside the body. Birds that were susceptible to the disease shed the virus in faeces and over a longer period of time.

Professor Venugopal Nair, head of the Avian Viral Diseases programme at the Pirbright Institute, said: “The findings of this study emphasise the importance of examining the intricate nature of the virus-host interactions and the potential role of the host genetic factors influencing the transmission dynamics and outcomes of important diseases such as avian flu.”

Major implications for poultry breeding

The findings, reported in the journal Scientific Reports, pave the way for further investigation, and work is planned to discover and examine the precise biological mechanisms behind genetic resistance. This could have major implications for poultry breeding, as well as human flu treatments, in the future.

Dr Colin Butter, from the School of Life Sciences at the University of Lincoln, which was heavily involved in the research, said the results of the research were significant. “Until now we knew relatively little about how a bird’s genetics can affect its reaction to flu virus, but this new research, which for the first time shows that some poultry lines are genetically resistant to avian flu, represents a significant step forward,” he said.

“Limiting risk to human population”

“The prospect of breeding birds with natural immunity to influenza virus would certainly widen the scope of existing control measures and perhaps limit the risk to the human population of the emergence of pandemic viruses.

“Furthermore, as human genetic determinants for catching flu are comparatively unknown, research such as ours, which is developing a better understanding of the genes and mechanisms involved, could also lead to improved therapeutic options in humans.”

The study also involved specialists from the University of Oxford and the Francis Crick Institute in London and was funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.

Tony McDougal, Poultry World


  • zareh amadouny

    Une recherche fort intéressante, félicitation. Zareh.

  • gubbi lokanath

    Perhaps intense genetic research on the possible locus/loci involved,single or double,in resistant strains,cross breeding to sensitive strains, identifying the degree of dominance/susceptibility, will help to evolve genetically disease resistant strains. Variability in avian species susceptibility also may exist needing exploration.
    The present investigation will surely have a major contribution to combat avian influenza.

  • Stephen Adejoro

    It is my humble view and personal opinion that the issue of AI endemicity, as been envisaged with Nigeria, is far beyond the capacity of the Nigeria Government to contain under her present declining revenue especially from oil that had crashed in the world market.
    Beside the prevailing policy of Biosecurity and stamping out with compensation had totally failed , not because the ministry is not efficient but because of the inadequate fund to compensate farmers whose farms had been culled and waiting for months without compensation.
    Such farms are no more contributing poultry products to the market and the price of DOCs today is seriously on the increase due to poor performances of Breeder stock that are still producing while many had been wiped up The waiting period for a replacement of spent layers now in Nigeria is a minimum of 3 months as against 3-4 weeks in previous years.
    I honestly believe that the present Government working along with international bodies like FAO, OIE and USAID need to agree on a revised multi-strategic approach to curtail AI menace in Nigeria and recently in West and the Central Africa.
    Today in Nigeria there is free movement of poultry from high risk region to less risky regions and so the virus can travel freely without means of checking at control post for any circulating antibodies or viral symptoms and so infected birds can move freely within the region.
    I do say and believe that we need a multi-strategic approach for the control of this serious disease in West Africa and my recommended approach includes compulsorily the following:
    • A revision of the existing policy of Government of “No Vaccination for AI”
    • A more vigorous campaign and capacity development for compulsory biosecurity by both large and small holder poultry farmers.
    • Prompt reporting of this noticeable diseases to the nearest AI and veterinary centres by farmers and practicing veterinarians and regulated vaccination for premium stock i.e GPS and PS.

  • Dr. G.R.Lokanath. agreed. This findings could be critical to answer the one of the most devastating problem of AI particularly in South East Asia after new mutated strains of ND and IB variants.

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