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No Flu for These Birds

Researchers in the UK are using gene-editing tools to develop chickens resistant to influenza, Reuters reports.

Imperial College London's Wendy Barclay and her colleagues are using the CRISPR gene-editing tool to edit chicks so that they lack a key protein the flu virus needs to infect chickens. In 2016, the researchers reported in Nature that the flu relies on the host protein ANP32A for its replication. According to Reuters, Barclay and her colleague now plan to tweak the chickens' DNA to only alter a one part of the gene encoding ANP32A.

She and her colleagues hope that by making chickens that are immune to the influenza virus, they can create a sort of buffer between wild birds and humans to limit people's exposure to the virus and fend off potential flu epidemics, Reuters adds.

"If we could prevent influenza virus crossing from wild birds into chickens, we would stop the next pandemic at source," Barclay tells the Independent.

The first chicks are expected to be hatched this year, Reuters notes.