May 11, 2023
Scientists create gene-edited calf resistant to BVDV
University of Nebraska-Lincoln scientists, as well as scientists from the federal and private sector, have collaborated to produce a gene-edited calf resistant to bovine viral diarrhoea virus (BVDV), Phys.org reported.
In a breakthrough study published in PNAS Nexus, researchers successfully used gene-editing technology to alter the genetic structure of a calf named Ginger, effectively reducing vulnerability to the BVDV. BVDV wreaks havoc on the bovine immune system, causing severe respiratory and intestinal damage in infected cattle.
In utero calves are especially vulnerable to infection, and can be infected for live if they survive, serving as silent carriers and spreading the virus to others. The gene-editing approach, if proven effective through further research, offers long-term potential for reducing the need for antimicrobial and antibiotic use in the cattle industry.
Aspen Workman, lead author of the study and scientist at the USDA's U.S. Meat Animal Research Center (USMARC), said by slightly altering the CD46 protein using gene-editing technology, they aimed to create a calf that wouldn't bind the virus while retaining all normal bovine functions.
Ginger, a Gir breed calf, was born on July 19, 2021, and brought to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln for close monitoring. Despite being exposed to a BVDV-infected dairy calf shedding the virus, Ginger remained a "bright, healthy calf" throughout the study period.
While the findings hold promise, further research is necessary to replicate the results in other cattle breeds. If the gene-editing approach proves successful, it could significantly reduce the use of antimicrobials in the cattle sector, benefiting both livestock producers and public health.