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DNA discovery could help treat Marek's disease
Scientists identified regions of chicken DNA that are seen to play a role in disease resistance.
Scientists identify genetic regions in chickens associated with resistance.

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh's Roslin Institute have identified regions of chicken DNA associated with resistance to Marek's disease.

Scientists say the discovery, reported in the journal Genes, could pave the way to new therapies or techniques to manage the condition, which costs the global poultry industry some US$ 2 billion every year.The findings also reveal details behind susceptibility to the virus, which could lead to more precise selective breeding strategies.

“Marek’s disease is devastating to flocks worldwide as well as the economy, and current vaccination can only partially control it,” explains Dr Jaqueline Smith, study lead at the Roslin Institute.“Our study identifies regions of the genome associated with resistance, which could be used for mitigating the effects of the virus through selective breeding, improved vaccine design, or future gene-editing technologies.”

In the study, scientists identified regions of chicken DNA that are seen to play a role in disease resistance. Their approach included comparing the DNA of two groups of commercial egg-laying chickens which differed in their resistance to Marek’s disease virus.

The team analysed genetic information from infected chicks and identified variations associated with resistance in the DNA of multiple commercial chicken lines. They also investigated the genetic association with mortality in the infected offspring of egg-laying birds.

Outcomes from this research are the first to provide such a large-scale, high-resolution analysis of genes underlying resistance to the virus in birds relevant to the poultry industry.

Because the tumours caused by Marek’s disease virus have similarities to human lymphoma, researchers hope that their findings may also be able to increase understanding of human cancers.

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Charities' XL bully neutering scheme closes

News Story 1
 A scheme that helped owners of XL bully dogs with the cost of neutering has closed to new applications due to high demand.

The scheme, run by the RSPCA, Blue Cross, and Battersea, has helped 1,800 dogs and their owners after XL bullies were banned under the Dangerous Dogs Act.

In England and Wales, owners of XL bully dogs which were over one year old on 31 January 2021 have until 30 June 2024 to get their dog neutered. If a dog was between seven months and 12 months old, it must be neutered by 31 December 2024. If it was under seven months old, owners have until 30 June 2025.

More information can be found on the Defra website. 

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News Shorts
Avian flu cattle outbreak spreads to tenth US state

Cattle in two dairy herds in Iowa have tested positive for highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), making it the tenth state in the USA to be affected by the ongoing outbreak of the disease in cattle.

Since March 2024, more than 80 herds across the USA have been affected by the virus and three dairy workers have tested positive. Authorities have introduced measures to limit the spread of the virus and farmers have been urged to strengthen their biosecurity protocols.

Mike Naig, Iowa secretary of agriculture, said: "Given the spread of highly pathogenic avian influenza within dairy cattle in many other states, it is not a surprise that we would have a case given the size of our dairy industry in Iowa.

"While lactating dairy cattle appear to recover with supportive care, we know this destructive virus continues to be deadly for poultry."