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How ducks host influenza unharmed: Could findings shield humans from bird flu viruses?

Date:
April 9, 2010
Source:
University of Alberta
Summary:
Scientists have identified the genetic detector that allows ducks to live, unharmed, as the host of influenza. The duck's virus detector gene, RIG-I, enables a duck's immune system to contain the virus, which typically spreads from ducks to chickens, where it mutates and can evolve to be a human threat like the H5N1 influenza virus.

Mallard duck with fifteen ducklings. Researchers have identified the genetic detector that allows ducks to live, unharmed, as the host of influenza.
Credit: iStockphoto/Andy Gehrig

A University of Alberta-led research team has discovered an influenza detector gene that could potentially prevent the transmission of the virus to humans.

Katharine Magor, a U of A associate professor of biology, has identified the genetic detector that allows ducks to live, unharmed, as the host of influenza. The duck's virus detector gene, called retinoic acid inducible gene -- I, or RIG-I, enables a duck's immune system to contain the virus, which typically spreads from ducks to chickens, where it mutates and can evolve to be a human threat like the H5N1 influenza virus. The first human H5N1 cases were in Hong Kong in 1997. Eighteen people with close contact to chickens became infected and six died.

Magor's research shows chickens do not have a RIG-I gene. A healthy chicken can die within 18 hours after infection, but researchers have successfully transferred the RIG-I gene from ducks to chicken cells. The chicken's defenses against influenza were augmented and RIG-I reduced viral replication by half.

One potential application of this research could affect the worldwide poultry industry by production of an influenza-resistant chicken created by transgenesis.

The work of Katharine Magor, her U of A PhD candidate Megan Barber, and researchers from the United States (Jerry Aldridge and Robert Webster) was published March 22, in the online, early edition of Proceedings from the National Academy of Sciences.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Alberta. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Barber et al. Association of RIG-I with innate immunity of ducks to influenza. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2010; 107 (13): 5913 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1001755107

Cite This Page:

University of Alberta. "How ducks host influenza unharmed: Could findings shield humans from bird flu viruses?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 April 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100330151942.htm>.
University of Alberta. (2010, April 9). How ducks host influenza unharmed: Could findings shield humans from bird flu viruses?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100330151942.htm
University of Alberta. "How ducks host influenza unharmed: Could findings shield humans from bird flu viruses?." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100330151942.htm (accessed August 22, 2014).

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