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Fat 'crucial' for Marek's disease virus infection
Worldwide losses relating to MDV are estimated to cost up to $2 billion.
Researchers identify new pathways involved in development of the disease

The storage and production of fat is crucial for Marek’s disease virus (MDV) to replicate in chickens, according to new research.

The study, published in the Journal of Virology, identifies new pathways that are involved in the development of the disease. Scientists say these can help to generate control strategies for the virus which could reduce its spread.

Study author Dr Shahriar Behboudi from The Pirbright Institute said: “Some viruses exploit host cell machinery to produce components required for their replication and spread. We found that MDV uses the host cells to produce and store fats, contributing to the replication of the virus and possibly clogging the arteries.”

MDV is a highly contagious disease of chickens that leads to the build-up of fatty substances in the arteries. The disease is a major threat to the poultry industry, with worldwide losses relating to MDV estimated to cost up to $2 billion.

Researchers identified chemical inhibitors that disrupted two different but connected fat-production pathways which significantly reduced virus replication.

The scientists say that while these inhibitors helped them to identify the cellular mechanisms the virus disrupts, they would not be suitable for anti-viral development owing to their side effects. There would also be the possibility of transfer to meat and eggs.

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RSPCA braced for ‘hectic hedgehog month’

News Story 1
 The RSPCA says that it is bracing itself for a ‘hectic hedgehog month’ after calls to the charity about the creatures peaked this time last year.

More than 10,000 calls about hedgehogs were made to the RSPCA’s national helpline in 2018, 1,867 of which were in July. This compares with just 133 calls received in February of the same year.

Evie Button, the RSPCA’s scientific officer, said: “July is our busiest month for hedgehogs. Not only do calls about hedgehogs peak, but so do admissions to our four wildlife centres as members of the public and our own officers bring in orphaned, sick or injured animals for treatment and rehabilitation.” 

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ASF traces found in seized meat at NI airport

More than 300kg of illegal meat and dairy products were seized at Northern Ireland’s airports in June, DAERA has revealed.

A sample of these were tested at the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute, resulting in the detection of African swine fever DNA fragments.

DAERA said that while the discovery does not pose a significant threat to Northern Ireland’s animal health status, it underlines the importance of controls placed on personal imports of meat and dairy products. Holidaymakers travelling overseas are being reminded not to bring any animal or plant products back home.