UC Davis Researchers Search for Disease-Free Chickens

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UC Davis researchers are using a $6 million grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development to identify and breed a new strain of chickens that will resist Newcastle disease, which devastate chicken in under developed countries in Africa.

“We have the opportunity to develop a chicken that’s resistant to this disease and therefore provide a lot more chickens and eggs for people across Africa,” said David Bunn of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences who will be the project director.

The idea is to find disease resistance chickens in commercial flocks and in small rural households and then use cutting edge genome technology to identify genes that cause them to be disease resistance.

“Disease resistance is very complicated,” said Huaijun Zhou, the chief investigator for the project.

Zhou says unlike human diseases in which there is sometimes one gene that causes disease resistance, chickens can have perhaps hundreds of genes that combine to create that trait.

But by using the mapped genome of  a chicken, those genes can be marked and chickens with those markers picked out more easily.  Thousands of chickens from commercial flocks and rural chickens will be screened and disease resistant chickens breed for distribution.

The project could take five years, but the new technology means they have a better chance of success.

The project is led by the UC Davis researchers with involvement by universities in Africa.

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