Increasing global demand for poultry and the expansion of poultry farming has resulted in an increased burden of pathogens that infect poultry. As well as compromising animal welfare, this increase poses a risk to human health. Vaccines are available for some poultry pathogens, but are commonly expensive with limited availability in some countries. A promising strategy to control poultry disease is to produce chickens with enhanced genetic resistance to pathogen colonisation and thus reduced dependence on antibiotic mediated pathogen control. This resistance is influenced by the chicken immune response as well as the activity of bacteria in the gut, known as the microbiome, which can prevent pathogens from colonising the host.
A three-year Bloomsbury studentship has been awarded to look into this: PhD student Eden Shaw will be supervised by Royal Veterinary College researchers Dr Androniki Psifidi, Professors Damer Blake and Fiona Tomley as well as Dr Ozan Gundogdu from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. This project will characterise the gut microbiome and will investigate the genetic architecture of resistance to pathogens in commercial broiler and Indian indigenous chicken. By applying cutting-edge metagenomics, genomic and functional genomic approaches they aim to provide genomic tools which could be used to inform selective breeding strategies to enhance resistance to pathogens and promote a beneficial microbiome.