World's First BVDV-Resistant Calf Produced by Implicating Gene Editing Technology

25 May 2023

Despite decades of vaccinations and other precautions, a highly infectious viral disease, bovine viral diarrhea virus (BVDV), poses significant health threats to cattle worldwide. In order to deal with this, federal, private-sector, and University of Nebraska-Lincoln scientists have been working together to develop a new line of defense by producing a gene-edited calf that can resist the virus. 

With the help of this collaboration, the world's first gene-edited calf with resistance to the bovine viral diarrhea virus was successfully produced in May 2023.

According to the BIS Research report, the global gene editing technologies market was valued at $1.81 billion in 2022 and is anticipated to reach $16.37 billion by 2032, witnessing a CAGR of 27.50% during the forecast period 2023-2032.

This virus imposes substantial financial burdens on the U.S. cattle industry, costing billions of dollars each year. However, it is important to note that despite this breakthrough, the introduction of genetically modified beef into the market is not imminent, as this promising trait is still undergoing research and development.

Here’s the Complete Story

In the last few years, scientists have made significant progress in understanding bovine viral infection by identifying the primary cellular receptor (CD46) and the specific region where the virus attaches to initiate infection in cattle.

Building upon this knowledge, a team of researchers led by the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA's) Agricultural Research Services (ARS) has employed gene-editing technology to make subtle modifications to CD46. These alterations prevent the virus from binding to CD46 while preserving all its regular functions in the bovines.

Technology Behind Gene-Edited Calf

Following successful trials in laboratory cell cultures, the scientists collaborated with Acceligen, a company specializing in precision breeding technology focused on enhancing animal welfare and disease resistance. Together, they utilized gene-editing techniques to modify cattle skin cells, aiming to produce embryos carrying the altered gene. These embryos were then implanted into surrogate cows to evaluate the effectiveness of reducing viral infection in live animals.

The outcomes of this approach were remarkably positive. A healthy calf named Ginger, whose CD46 gene was edited, was successfully born on July 19, 2021. After monitoring Ginger for several months, she was deliberately exposed to the virus to test her susceptibility to infection. For a week, Ginger was housed with a dairy calf infected with BVDV, a virus known for causing diseases.

Remarkably, Ginger's cells showed a significant decrease in vulnerability to BVDV, resulting in no noticeable negative effects on her health.

The scientists will continue to closely observe Ginger's well-being and her ability to produce and care for her own calves. This study serves as proof that gene editing could potentially alleviate the prevalence of BVDV-related illnesses in cattle.

Moreover, the gene-edited calf presents an additional opportunity to reduce the reliance on antibiotics in agriculture, as BVDV infection often exposes calves to secondary bacterial diseases.


This ground-breaking study serves as a proof-of-concept, showcasing the transformative potential of gene-editing technology in mitigating the impact of BVDV on cattle.

Furthermore, as BVDV infection predisposes calves to secondary bacterial infections, the application of gene-editing technology to breed cattle resistant to this virus could also lead to a reduction in the usage of antibiotics in the agricultural sector.

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