Researchers in Australia have launched a project aiming to produce chickens that lay eggs without the proteins that cause allergic reactions in humans.
If successful, the eggs could offer relief to parents of children with allergies, and potentially produce safer vaccines.
Even traces of egg white in food can spark a reaction in those severely allergic, and most with an allergy are unable to receive a flu vaccine.
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The British Egg Industry Council recommends women eat egg while pregnant, as research has shown this may help build a tolerance in the unborn child. It adds offering infants a small amount of egg when first introducing solid food may have a similar effect.
The project is a collaboration between Deakin University, Melbourne, and Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO.
Pathum Dhanapala, a PHD candidate at the university, is to begin a three-year project that will seek to “switch off” the four proteins in eggs that are responsible for most allergic reactions.
The hope is that these eggs will hatch chickens that lay hypoallergenic eggs.
Prof Tim Doran, who will supervise the project, said it would make use of technology known as RNAi, previously used in a similar way to modify crops.
“We are not producing genetically modified chickens as part of this research, we are simply modifying the proteins within the egg whites to produce chickens which lay allergy-free eggs,” he added.
The research is expected to take three years to complete and the university said hypoallergenic vaccines could be available within five years.