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Crop Biotech Update

Genetic Code of Pigs Altered to Tackle Deadly Virus

February 24, 2016

Using advanced genetic techniques, researchers at The Roslin Institute of the University of Edinburgh have produced pigs that are potentially resilient to African Swine Fever, a highly contagious disease. The new pigs carry a gene usually found in warthogs and bush pigs. When farmed pigs are infected, they quickly become ill and die, whereas warthogs and bush pigs do not show symptoms when infected.

The research is focused on one of the pig genes associated with African Swine Fever Virus infection called RELA. The gene causes the immune system to overreact with devastating effects. Warthogs and bush pigs carry a different version of the RELA gene, and scientists modified individual letters of the pigs' genetic code. By changing five letters in their RELA gene, they converted it to the allele that is found in the warthog. The researchers will now conduct controlled trials to test whether the genetic changes have improved the pigs' resilience to the disease.

For more details, read the news release at the Roslin Institute's website.