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Using DNA Sequencing to Trace the Emergence of Colibacillosis in Saskatchewan Chicken Broiler Farms

2022 CPRF,Broilers
Colibacillosis caused by Avian Pathogenic E. coli (APEC) manifests in diverse ways and remains one of the major widespread diseases affecting the poultry industry worldwide, especially in broiler chickens aged 4-6 weeks. This indicates the growing importance of this pathogen to the industry. Despite the many studies/research on avian colibacillosis, their virulence genes identification, more phenotypic characterizations, and much remains to be further explored to gain a comprehensive understanding of the disease. Our project was designed to study the whole genome of E. coli strains isolated from diseased broiler chicken with confirmed colibacillosis (systemic) and E. coli from healthy birds (cecal contents). This part of the project was carried out by Madeline McCarthy (Dr. Aaron White’s former MSc student). From her results, the draft genome maps of APEC strains from diseased birds did not match the E. coli strains isolated from healthy birds within the same flocks which mean that they likely represent two different populations of E. coli. We suspect that the APEC strains causing colibacillosis might have another reservoir on the farm, potentially associated with the environment or feed. Since E. coli can persist for a long period outside the bird’s body (host) in dry and dusty conditions, it is speculated that inhalation of contaminated dust, suboptimal sanitation in barns or poor environmental conditions are the most likely sources of colibacillosis in poultry . For my project, I isolated E. coli strains from different on-farm environments and will compare them to the ‘disease’ and ‘healthy’ E. coli populations. My project will help to identify potential sources of APEC strains within the farm environment, phenotypically characterize the environmental E. coli strains to determine the traits that enhance their pathogenicity, molecularly characterize the genomes of environmental E. coli strains, and finally compare the whole genomes of E. coli strains from diseased/healthy birds and environment. If we identify any matches between E. coli strains isolated from environmental samples on the farm and disease-causing APEC strains, it will point to areas that could be targeted for better control of colibacillosis. The long-term goal of this study is to help Saskatchewan chicken farmers and producers manage the spread of colibacillosis on their farms which will reduce bird mortality.
Tags :
colibacillosis,DNA sequencing
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PhD Student

University of Saskatchewan

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