Low-cost Portable Molecular Diagnostic Platform for Rapid Detection of Poultry Infectious Pathogens (LMDP)

Lead Research Organisation: Brunel University
Department Name: Inst of Environment, Health & Societies

Abstract

The poultry industry in the Philippines accounts for 15% of the agricultural output, equating to 123.4 billion pesos per annum and is growing at a few percent per annum. One factor affecting growth is an inability to rapidly detect disease within the chicken population. There are a range of bacterial and viral pathogens which affect the poultry industry. Currently the diagnostic methodology is reliant on a drop in production performance, presence of clinical signs, pathological lesions and serological findings. As such the diagnostic time is quite long and this can affect the ability to implement control measures to limit the spread of the disease to adjacent poultry farms. Although the key disease pathogens are well known, Newcastle disease, infectious bursal disease virus (IBDV), avian infectious bronchitis (IB), Salmonellosis, Avian Pathogenic E. coli (APEC) and mycoplasma gallisepticum, It is unclear at this present time what the particular strain or strains are, which affect the Philippines or any information on the genetic diversity of these. When it is considered that a relatively small 1% increase or decrease in production can make a very large economic impact.
To address this, a multidisciplinary consortium from the UK (Brunel University London, Surrey University and the Pribright Institute) and the Philippines (College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of the Philippines Los Banos, College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at Cavite State University and the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Eastern Philippines) has been formed. Using the complimentary skills of those involved the project proposes to develop and translate to the Philippines a rapid easy to use point of need molecular diagnostic test that can be used at the site of infection and test for the key viral and bacterial pathogens identified which are of current concern. The total test time will be under 1 hour (sample to result). The system will consist of a sample collection and preparation device and a small instrument approximately the size of a large matchbox which will be wirelessly connected to a smartphone. The smartphone app will run the assay and display the results. The results can also be sent wirelessly to a central store and used for surveillance purposes. The platform can be relatively easily adapted for any new and emerging strains of these pathogens. Once the system is laboratory validated it will be evaluated in the Philippines. In addition, agreements will be sought to transfer the technology to the Philippines for largescale manufacture thus providing for a secondary economic effect.
The consortium considers that this project meets the objectives of the BBSRC-Newton Fund call and will provide significant impact and economic benefit both from the perspective of poultry farming and from the development, manufacture and sale of test kit which will assist in the economic development of the Philippines.

Planned Impact

The poultry industry in Philippines provides a significant contribution to the growth of the agricultural sector and it has a share of about 15% of the total output of the country. Any disease outbreak of economically important poultry pathogens, especially in broiler chickens will adversely affect economic performance. In Philippines, poultry clinicians normally rely on production performance, clinical, pathological lesions and serological findings to make a diagnosis. Although, molecular diagnostic techniques for detecting viral and bacterial pathogens are fairly well advanced in the developed world, it is slow to be implemented in resource poor settings like in Philippines. Accurate and early diagnosis of poultry infections using molecular techniques may decrease the spread of disease and facilitate appropriate selection of more efficient management and treatment protocols. This project proses to develop a smartphone based diagnostic test and does not need expensive instrumentation to be available at the point-of-need in farms. Early detection will minimise the spread of disease within the country and hence avoid unnecessary mortality of poultry. Furthermore, early diagnosis of infections can also minimise any consequential zoonotic transmission within the farm workers as well as the population at large.

In either large or small-scale agribusiness, poultry farming promotes significant enhancement of Philippine's GDP and supports improved income for local poultry farmers. This research project would therefore, help the Philippine economy because rapid and accurate diagnoses of diseases in the farm means prompt and appropriate treatment. Once the technology transfer from the UK to Philippines is completed and a royalty sharing agreement has been signed with the IP generating consortium partners, this device can be mass produced cheaply for markets in other South Asian countries, which will generate significant income for Philippines. Cost-effective devices that can provide rapid and accurate results mean that diseases are addressed promptly through correct institution of treatment and biosecurity.

The pathogens that will be studied are of foremost public health importance and are considered to be one of the most important pathogens responsible for human food poisoning in the developed world and chicken products are widely acknowledged to be a significant reservoir for Salmonella spp.. For poultry viruses, Newcastle disease virus (NDV) may cause conjunctivitis in human and in high challenge areas such as in cases of an outbreak; NDV is an important health concern for farm workers. Hence, rapidly and accurately detecting these pathogens in poultry would help in the prevention of transmission of these diseases to humans.

The scientific findings and data that can be derived from these studies may serve as a guide for the authority to develop policy guidelines that are legally binding for the control of the spread of contagious poultry diseases. The database that will be developed to continuously monitor the spread of infection using wireless technology will be a valuable tool to predict, if a new strain of viral or bacterial pathogen develops in the future. The findings in the local poultry in the Philippines may serve as a reference for reproducibility of the developed technologies particularly to ASEAN neighbors whereby each member state shares lots of similarities in terms of ecological and socio-cultural characteristics.

The research findings will be published in both journals as well as at national and international conferences. A dedicated web site and other social media platforms will be set up maintained to continuously inform the public of the findings. Special seminars and workshops will be held to inform poultry farmers, government agencies to minimise the spread of disease as well as zoonotic effect.

Publications

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Betts JW (2018) Novel Antibacterials: Alternatives to Traditional Antibiotics. in Advances in microbial physiology