$5million USAID Grant to Develop Newcastle Resistant Chicken in Africa - LivestockTrend


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Monday 19 November 2018

$5million USAID Grant to Develop Newcastle Resistant Chicken in Africa

In a bid to curtail the spread of the deadly avian disease, Newcastle, the United States Agency for National Development (USAID) has granted funds of $5million to the University of California’s ‘Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Genomics to Improve Poultry’ international, multidisciplinary project. This project seeks to provide essential resistance to diseases in birds in areas where vaccines cannot be used and also to increase the functioning power of existing vaccines.
The grant was supplied in order to aid the project’s endeavor of locating genes and genetic markers responsible for resistance to the Newcastle disease and heat stress in poultry birds.
The director of the project, geneticist and animal science professor at the University of California, Huaijun Zhou has cited the potential of solving a large nutrition problem among ‘poor rural dwellers’ by increasing and sustaining the production of indigenous chicken and eggs. He said that ‘eggs are an almost entirely complete protein, containing numerous macro and micro nutrients.’ Such nutrients are often absent in other staple foods consumed in poor communities.
This ought to be relatively easy as raising indigenous chicken on a small scale is not particularly a large investment. However, the raging Newcastle disease often checkmates attempts by rural dwellers to raise birds. Newcastle kills about 750 million chickens in Africa yearly.
The team’s research includes improving the immunity of poultry birds to the Newcastle disease and improving growth and egg production of poultry birds by applying genetic and genomic principles. This approach, according to Mr. Zhou is not to replace vaccine but to provide additional immunity.
Identifying the genes responsible for immunity to Newcastle diseases and heat stress pose a hurdle to the research team as they (the genes) are often complex – working together to achieve a single purpose. Each gene in a group often connotes a small contribution to the total genetic purpose making them difficult to find.
However, since the project was launched in 2013 with a $6m grant from USAID, several genetic markers responsible for resistance to the Newcastle disease and heat stress have been discovered. The project incorporates professors from the University of Agriculture, Tanzania, the University of Ghana and the International Livestock Research Institute, Kenya, Iowa State University, and University of California’s School of Veterinary Medicine. 
Efforts have been made to reestablish facilities in Ghana and Tanzania and also to carry out proper market and business surveys to further help the application of the research to rural dwellers on a larger scale.  

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