Broiler Systems

Project Name

Production systems, bird welfare and endemic disease affect the susceptibility of chickens to Campylobacter


1/11/11 - 30/10/14

Project Collaborators

University of Liverpool



Project Description


Chicken is the source of ~80% of human Campylobacter infections. The bacteria are found on carcass surfaces at high levels and in muscle and liver tissues. Undercooked chicken meat is an important vehicle of Campylobacter infection. It is essential that the number of contaminated chickens is reduced. The proposed research will examine different intensive systems in which UK chickens are grown and determine reasons for the observed differences in Campylobacter status. This project results from a direct request from theUKpoultry industry. This proposal brings together modellers, microbiologists, molecular biologists, retailers and poultry producers in a unique combination to address global risks to human health associated with interactions between broiler production systems, endemic disease and physiological state of birds.

Our past work showed that chickens reared under higher welfare systems are less likely to have Campylobacter than standard birds. The higher welfare systems use birds that grow more slowly and which are stocked at a lower density. As well as lower Campylobacter levels, the higher welfare birds had better health and this may protect them against Campylobacter. We seek to determine, through field studies, which of bird genotype/growth and/or the in-house environment determine Campylobacter status and to identify the mechanisms by which Campylobacter leave the chicken gut and infect edible tissues. We will use a combined modelling and molecular approach to investigate factors that improve resistance to Campylobacter, reduce risk of colonization and extra-intestinal spread in UK broilers. We will undertake laboratory studies to determine the susceptibility of commonly used broiler chickens to C. jejuni and the major endemic poultry pathogen avian pathogenic E. coli (APEC). Infection with E. coli not only increases the risk of broilers having Campylobacter, but is also strongly correlated with spread from the gut