New research targets main poultry diseases

Three new poultry research projects, worth £1.8m over the next three years, have been unveiled by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council’s animal health research club.

The money will be shared among a number of research institutes and focus on infectious bronchitis, avian influenza and coccidiosis. It forms part of a larger £4m allocation aimed at improving the health of farmed animals.

“Livestock diseases cost UK farmers and the wider economy millions of pounds a year, pose welfare problems for farmed animals and negatively affect food security,” said BBSRC’s innovation director, Celia Caulcott.

“By funding studies that take a broad look at some of the most prevalent and costly livestock diseases, the Animal Health Research Club will be able to deliver results to benefit farmers, animals and consumers.”

The work on IB is being conducted by the Pirbright Institute and Glasgow University, with additional funding from Zoetis. It will focus on understanding how live viruses, already used to protect birds against IB, sometimes revert to a pathogenic form.

“Using genetic sequencing technology, researchers will study the molecular changes that occur during vaccine production,” said a statement.

The results will then help identify ways of improving vaccine design and reducing the chance of vaccine strains mutating.

A second study by the Pirbright Institute and the Welcome Trust Sanger Institute will examine the make-up of certain proteins in the cells of chickens that can give protection against avian influenza and other viral diseases.

“Poultry breeders will then be able to select the protective version of the genes, encoding these proteins in future breeding programmes,” said the statement.

The third project, involving the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh and the Royal Veterinary College, aims to increase genetic resistance to coccidiosis.

“In chickens the disease coccidiosis is controlled primarily through the use of coccidiostats,” said the statement. “Vaccines exist, but are currently not a cheap or practical solution to replace these drugs.

“Resistance to eimeria infection is known in inbred lines of chickens. Researchers plan to genetically map disease resistance and differential responses to vaccines, using modern techniques.”

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