Home Tech Bird flu is spreading in new and alarming ways

Bird flu is spreading in new and alarming ways

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Bird flu is spreading in new and alarming ways

As a recent example of what can happen, Pitesky points to repeated outbreaks of African swine fever in several Asian countries over the past decade, which decimated the pork industry to the point that pork was briefly usurped by poultry as the protein. most consumed animal. in the planet. Pitesky argues, however, that the current model of governments heavily compensating farmers for their livestock losses following a viral outbreak is financially unsustainable, and more investment needs to be diverted toward AI-driven technologies that can prevent these. infections first. .

“I work on predictive models, using a combination of weather radar, satellite imagery and machine learning, to understand how waterfowl behavior is changing on different farms,” Pitesky says. “We can use this information to understand which of the 50,000 to 60,000 commercial poultry facilities in the U.S. are most at risk and formulate strategies to protect all birds at those facilities.”

Ultimately, the technology may offer a path toward eliminating the virus in commercial poultry. In October, a team of UK researchers published a study in the journal Nature Communications demonstrating that it is possible to use the genetic editing tool Crispr to make chickens resistant to avian influenza. This was done by editing genes that produce the ANP32A, ANP32B and ANP32E proteins in chickens, which the virus uses to gain access to chicken cells.

Crispr has been shown to be able to make cattle resistant to other infections such as viral disease that causes cancer avian leukosis and porcine reproductive and respiratory syndromewhich is responsible for widespread economic losses on pig farms.

“The methods currently available are the use of strict biosecurity on farms, vaccination of poultry in some countries and mass depopulation of infected or exposed chicken flocks,” says Alewo Idoko-Akoh of the University of Bristol, a researcher main of the study. Nature Communications study. “These methods have been partially successful, but have so far failed to stop recurring outbreaks of bird flu around the world. “Gene editing of chickens to introduce disease resistance should be considered as an additional tool to prevent or limit the spread of avian influenza.”

Pitesky described the paper as “really interesting,” but noted that widespread public acceptance of eating gene-edited chicken would be needed for it to be commercially viable. “I think those technological solutions have a lot of potential, but the problem more than anything, especially in the United States, is the sentiment toward chickens that have been genetically modified,” he says.

For now, Iqbal says the best chance of keeping bird flu under control is more active surveillance efforts in animal populations around the world, to understand how and where H5N1 is spreading.

“The surveillance system has been improved and any infection that appears unusual is thoroughly investigated,” he says of the situation in the United States. “This has helped identify unusual outbreaks, such as infections in goats and cattle.” However, he says, much more work is needed to detect the virus in animals that show no signs of illness.

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