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Study finds clues to avian flu resistance
The study examined why some species of birds are more susceptible to avian flu than others.
Researchers identify genes that may provide resistance to the virus.

A new study has identified several candidate genes which may explain why some species of birds are less susceptible to highly pathogenic avian influenza than others.

A collaboration between researchers from the Roslin Institute, Edinburgh, and the National Institute of High Security Animal Diseases, Bhopal, the study sought to determine why some species are better at resisting the disease than others.

The researchers looked at how six species of birds responded to infection with low pathogenic avian influenza (H9N2) and two strains of highly pathogenic avian influenza  (H5N1 clade 2.2 and clade 2.3.2.1). The species investigated were chickens and turkeys (which are highly susceptible to the virus), ducks and crows (which tolerate and spread the virus), and geese and pigeons (which are highly resistant to it).

After infection, tissue samples were collected from the brain, ileum and lung of the birds at three different intervals. Transcriptomic responses were recorded and compared.

The results showed that susceptible birds had higher viral loads in the brain, while resistant birds had stronger differential regulation of genes associated with nerve function in the ileum and lung. Candidate genes which might help with resistance were identified and differences in how quickly the immune systems of ducks and crows respond to different strains of the virus were also discovered.

The findings of the study could pave the way for further investigations into the candidate genes. In future, these genes could be targets for selective breed or gene editing to improve the resistance of domestic birds to avian flu.

Since 1 October 2022, there have been 174 confirmed cases of the H5N1 strain across the UK.

Dr Katrina Morris, lead author of the study, said: “Understanding the biological processes triggered by avian flu, and the factors that influence resistance, is important in the effort to limit the risk of bird flu in commercial poultry.

“Our findings show that early interaction involving the immune system is key; they also highlight the importance of interplay between the birds’ nervous and immune systems in response to infectious disease, and flag several genes that may be influential in how infection plays out.”

The study was published in Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology.

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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."