As bird flu threatens to morph into a virus that can be passed from human to human, British scientists have taken a step forward in preventing the spread of the deadly epidemic by producing genetically modified chickens which are unable to transmit the flu to other creatures.
Scientists at Cambridge and Edinburgh universities found that while the newly developed chickens could still get infected and die from H5N1 bird flu, they didn’t pass it on to other birds, Reuters reports.
“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.
Asia and the Middle East have been hit hard by outbreaks of bird flu, which has killed millions of birds either through infection or destructive measures taken to prevent its spread. When people are infected in rare cases, it is often fatal.
Researchers are worried that the virus will in time be able to passed from person to person, so preventing it from bouncing around from bird to bird could be a key step in preventing that outcome.
The next move is to create chickens that will not only not transmit the flu, but actually resist it all together.