Mouse Gene Could Produce TB Resistant Cattle
Scientists at the Ministry of Agriculture in China have taken the first steps towards producing TB resistant cattle.
Using a mouse gene called SP110, which is known to inhibit the development of the disease, researchers genetically altered 23 Holstein-Friesian calves, 13 of which survived into adulthood. The calves all showed resistance to low levels of infection.
The second stage of the research involved placing nine GM cattle with infected animals, results showing six of the control group being resistant to TB. Laboratory tests confirmed that the Mycobacterium bovis bacterium, which causes TB, showed lower rates of multiplication within immune cells extracted from GM cattle given the mouse gene.
The study which was published in the journal ‘Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences’, is the first of its kind. Up until now, addressing bovine TB has involved a number of controversial strategies, including culling badgers to prevent the disease being transmitted to livestock. Over 26,000 cattle were slaughtered in the UK in 2013 alone at a cost to taxpayers of £100m.
“These findings are another step towards the creation of disease-resistant livestock animals based on advanced genetic tools,” said Heiner Niemann, head of Germany’s Institute of Farm Animal Genetics at Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut. “Whether this approach protects cows against TB infection when exposed to high doses of the pathogen remains to be determined.” Genetically modified animals are currently only used for laboratory research in the UK.