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Fighting bird flu through chicken feed

Hong Kong scientists claimed to have created a genetically modified rice that provides protection for chickens from the avian influenza.

The rice contains genetic material from the traditional Chinese medicine plant called yuzhu which has been found to inhibit the growth of viruses such as the deadly H5N1.

But it has not yet been tested outside the laboratory or on live birds because of safety concerns over the influenza virus. 

Scientists at the Chinese University of Hong Kong said they had produced a small quantity of the modified grain containing the yuzhu material which had been tested in a laboratory dish in a solution with monkey cells and the H5N1 virus. 

"During the experiment, the grain prevented the monkey cell from being destroyed by the virus," said research team leader Samuel Sun Sai-ming. 

Professor Sun said they were now looking to take their research to the next stage of testing it on birds, however they were finding it difficult because farms and universities were unwilling to host the experiment. 

"It's hard to meet the safety requirements for such an experiment," Professor Sun told reporters.
He added that they had contacted some universities in mainland China to try to find somewhere to do the experiment and were awaiting responses.

The team comprises scientists from Hong Kong and mainland China working at the university State Key Laboratory of Agrobiotechnology. 

The laboratory was set up with the China Agricultural University to research improvements in agricultural productivity and nutrition.

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