Research conducted in the United Kingdom found that some seabirds (seabirds) have managed to develop immunity to bird flu. This information is published by the country’s Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA). The work was carried out by a consortium called Flu Map led by the British agency.
Seabirds are those that easily adapt to the marine environment and find their habitat and food source there. According to APHA, researchers have developed laboratory analysis tools that allow the immune response of these birds to be evaluated.
Investigations that are still being treated as preliminary have shown that a small sample of some species, such as gannets, showed immunity to the H5N1 strain. This species is listed as a highly infectious species and has affected wild birds, subsistence birds and commercial flocks in different parts of the world.
But those conducting the study confirm that the bird influenza virus is capable of modifying itself. The result will be a decrease in antibody volumes in the animals over time. There is no guarantee that the next generation of these birds will be able to develop a similar immune response (suffer the infection and recover).
In addition to assessing the birds’ immune response, researchers were able to identify the genetic characteristics that give the bird-affected H5N1 strain its high ability to spread and infect. According to APHA, the study found that several genes have undergone modifications and developments to work together to improve their ability to transmit infection, survive in birds, and transmit between them.
The British agency explains that the consortium mapped the spread of infection over time. It was discovered that the virus can only be transmitted over short distances (less than 10 metres). “I am excited that we have already made some important discoveries, particularly regarding the genetic makeup of avian influenza viruses,” says Professor Ian Brown, director of scientific services and project manager at APHA, in the release.
Highly contagious avian influenza is a source of concern to authorities and the production sector around the world, due to the damage it could cause to poultry farming if it reaches commercial flocks. In addition to high bird mortality rates, places where outbreaks have been detected can be the target of trade sanctions by consumers.
According to APHA, between 2020 and 2023, more than 350 poultry facilities in the UK were infected. In Brazil, the Ministry of Agriculture has so far recorded 134 cases of bird flu, including 131 cases in wild birds and 3 cases in home-rearing flocks.. No commercial facilities were affected by the disease.
To further study immunity to the virus and understand bird flu, the agency announced that the research consortium has received an additional investment of £3.3 million. Another 3.2 million were released to another consortium, focused on understanding human-to-human transmission.
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The idea, APHA reports, is for the two federations to work collaboratively, in what is called a One Health approach. Based on the idea that the health of people, animals and the environment are interconnected, collaborative work tends to allow a better understanding of these relationships.
“Scientists hope to analyze the effect of antibodies on infection to better predict the emergence of new viruses with different sets of proteins in the future, allowing experts to be a step ahead in protecting animal and human health,” the British agency highlighted in its report on the statement.
Among the points that will be analyzed are the evolutionary nature of bird flu; How it is transmitted between bird groups and from wild birds to cultivated birds; Biosecurity gaps that allow the virus to enter; The role of immunity in wild birds. The effects of vaccination on disease outbreaks.
“The recent funding to the Avian Influenza Research Consortium demonstrates our collective commitment across research disciplines and government departments to coordinate a global response that helps protect animal and human health,” APHA UK Chief Executive said in a statement. Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.
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