Susceptibility of broiler chickens to C. jejuni


Project Name

Susceptibility of broiler chickens to Campylobacter: impacts of the gut environment and immune status on colonisation 




01/06/2012 – 31/05/2015

Project Collaborators

Professor Tom Humphrey, University of Liverpool

Dr Paul Wigley, University of Liverpool

Dr Nicola Williams, University of Liverpool

Professor Julian Ketley, Leicester University



Project Description


Campylobacter colonise chickens in the early stage of rearing. The period coincides with extensive changes in growth, development and immune status of the birds.  The birds are also increasingly exposed to a changing environment and environmental sources of Campylobacter and of microbes colonising the new environment of the gut. We seek to identify which of these drivers are key either individually or interactively to predispose the gut and its microbial flora to colonisation by Campylobacter. Thus we will address the factors that influence the initial colonisation of members of the flock, notably at the time when colonisation becomes likely, and also the bird-associated factors that affect subsequent spread of Campylobacter through a commercial flock.

Our objective is to determine the relative contributions of maternally derived antibodies, gut microbiota and flock management in the colonisation of birds and within flock spread through characterisation of:

1.         How the microbiota changes as broilers develop

2.         How the successional changes vary between individual birds

3.         How levels of anti-Campylobacter antibodies (MDABs) change as birds grow

4.         How broiler gut microbiota and its succession varies with bird MDAB status 

5.         How flock management affects microbiota, its succession and MDAB levels

6.         How the above changes in combination affect resistance to colonisation by C. jejuni

7.     Which of these processes and their interactions drive colonisation

And consequently identify

8.     Suitable intervention procedures to mitigate colonisation

We will characterise the underlying biological processes in the laboratory and compare these to observation on commercial flocks.  We will use modelling to integrate the results of the laboratory experiments with those of the field observations to characterise the pathways to colonisation and within-flock spread and then identify targets for solving the Campylobacter problem in commercial broiler production