Some chickens are naturally better at fighting off dangerous bacteria than others. And now that scientists have found a way to identify those birds, the production of flocks of super chickens—and a safer food system as a result—could be imminent.
Researchers at the US Department of Agriculture were able to identify roosters with strong immune systems by testing to see which ones had naturally high levels of two particular chemicals in their blood: cytokines and chemokines. Those chemicals, when released, effectively operate as sentinels in the body, by (among other things) alerting white blood cells as to where malignant invaders are located. They mobilize the birds’ immune systems, and birds with high levels of these chemicals have an increased ability to ward off dangerous pathogens.
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