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Future Foodborne Disease Control by Breeding?

by 5m Editor
18 December 2009, at 11:21pm

IRELAND - Researchers have identified genes in chickens that are responsible for the bird's immunity to Campylobacter, paving the way for a new technique to reduce food-borne illness.

Irish researchers have made a breakthrough in the production of Campylobacter-free chickens, which should drastically reduce the incidence of food poisoning in humans, according to Irish Examiner.

The researchers at University College Dublin and Trinity College Dublin have identified genes in chickens that seem to boost their immunity to Campylobacter. While this intestinal ailment causes minimal problems for the chickens themselves, it is a common cause of food poisoning in humans.

As such, the researchers anticipate that their findings will be widely used in future breeding programmes. The Comparative Immunology Group at Trinity College, led by Professor Cliona O'Farrelly, has previously shown that chickens have a high degree of genetic diversity to help them fight a variety of infections.

Irish chickens have a notably strong and diverse genetic heritage, thanks largely to extensive migration and repeated interbreeding with jungle fowl, the chicken's wild ancestor.

The research findings, which are being collated by Teagasc, could prove invaluable in protecting the Irish poultry industry. Poultry makes a significant contribution to the Irish economy, with a very high turnover of stock each year.