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  Breeders to broilers: optimising chicken health and performance to reduce susceptibility to zoonotic bacteria, viruses, and parasite colonisation.


   London Interdisciplinary Biosciences Consortium

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  Dr Ozan Gundogdu, Dr A Psifidi, Dr Dong Xia, Dr A Richmond  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

To apply for this project please visit the LIDo website: https://www.lido-dtp.ac.uk/apply

Healthily maintained livestock are essential for economic and societal prosperity. As the world population grows (≈9 billion by 2050), poultry will become the main source of protein and it is paramount we not only investigate methods to optimise bird health and performance, but simultaneously reduce susceptibility to zoonotic bacteria, virus and parasite colonisation (1). This reduced susceptibility can positively impact animal and human health and lessen antimicrobial usage.

Genetic selection and feed formulation have led to high standards of broiler production, however there still exists variability between farms and successive flocks (2). In broilers (chickens specifically raised for their meat), feed conversion and their health status are heavily dependent on the complex gut microbiome which plays a role in nutrient assimilation, vitamin and amino acid production and prevention of pathogen colonisation (3). Very little is known about parent breeder flocks and how the respective microbiome can impact chicken health, performance and the susceptibility to zoonotic bacteria, virus and parasite colonisation of downstream broilers.

Our previous studies have begun to demonstrate the differences that exist in the levels of zoonotic bacteria colonisation from across and within commercial broiler lines (4, 5). Selective breeding of poultry to increase resistance to zoonotic bacteria (e.g., Campylobacter, Salmonella and Escherichia), viruses and parasites is an attractive control strategy (6). Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) in commercial broiler populations have indicated that resistance to caecal colonisation of specific zoonotic pathogens is under moderate genetic control (7). Moreover, heritable differences in resistance have been associated with quantitative trait loci, and the transcription of genes related to immunity (7). The overarching project aim is to characterise how breeders and commercial broiler microbiomes and host genetics translate to optimised bird health and performance in conjunction with a reduced susceptibility to zoonotic bacteria, virus and parasite colonisation. These findings can have a direct positive impact on both animal and human health.

The PhD Objectives: -

(i)             Characterise the microbiomes of high and low performing breeder chickens in relation to animal health, and susceptibility to zoonotic bacteria, virus and parasite colonisation.

(ii)            Investigate the impact of breeder hatching day on downstream broiler microbiomes, health, performance and susceptibility to zoonotic bacteria, virus and parasite colonisation.

(iii)           Investigate breeder and broiler host genetics to map genetic regions associated with bird health, performance and susceptibility to zoonotic bacteria, virus and parasite gut colonisation.

The results generated from this project have the potential to impact industrial practices and policy makers to improve animal and human health. Characterising the microbiome of breeder and broiler chickens in relation to animal health, performance and susceptibility to zoonotic bacteria, virus and parasite gut colonisation gives scope for feed or supplement interventions, optimised hatchery time point selections, and selection of birds with increased inherent resistance to zoonotic pathogen colonisation. These changes can positively impact animal and human health.

To apply for this project please visit the LIDo website: https://www.lido-dtp.ac.uk/apply

Biological Sciences (4) Food Sciences (15) Mathematics (25) Veterinary Sciences (35)

Funding Notes

Fully funded place including home (UK) tuition fees and a tax-free stipend in the region of £17,609.
LIDo has a maximum of 11 fully funded opportunities for students eligible for overseas fees.

References

References(Bold are contributions from the authors). 1. Sibanda et al., 2018, Front Microbiol, 9:2002. 2. Limbergen et al., 2020, BMC Veterinary Research, 287(2020). 3. Jozefiak et al., 2004, Animal Feed Science and Tech, 113(1-4):1-15. 4. Ijaz et al., 2018, Front Microbiol, 9:2452. 5. McKenna et al., 2020, Microbiome, 8:128. 6. Russell et al., 2021, BMC Genomics 22:411. 7. Psifidi et al., 2021, Sci Reports 11:1623.