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Indonesian chicken gene resistant to bird flu

At least 62% of chickens indigenous to Indonesia are resistant to bird flu, thanks to a "Mx" gene in their body, the Indonesian Institute of Science (LIPI) revealed.

“Genetically, the indigenous chickens [to Indonesia] have a gene that is immune to avian influenza,” said head of the institute Umar Anggara Jenie, in an exposé of a biological study she gave at the Cibinong Sciences Center in Bogor, West Java, reports the Jakarta Post.

Sri Sulandari, a gene researcher at the institute’s biological research centre who studied the genes of indigenous chickens, said her institute carried out the first ever gene study focusing on how humans coped when contracting the virus and on the vaccination process. “Few have looked into the genetic side to see how chickens themselves have a natural resistance to bird flu. The indigenous chickens’ ability to resist avian influenza varies according to the strength of the antivirus genes in their body,” Sri said. 

Recent evidence indicated the Mx gene was associated with chicken resistance or susceptibility to highly pathogenic bird flu. Sri says that Indonesia’s varied population of indigenous chickens is a mine of information on the Mx gene and how resistant each breed of chicken is to bird flu. She went on to say that if there is a bird flu epidemic in a certain region, it is unwise to simply cull indigenous breeds, as we may lose crucial information on the Mx gene.

Based on samples taken from 1,872 indigenous chickens of various breeds,  the institute rated the dark-colored Cemani chicken the most resistant to the virus and the green forest chicken the most susceptible.

Source: The Jakarta Post

Natalie Berkhout

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