Rapid diagnostics and control strategies for enteric bacterial pathogens in backyard and commercial poultry production in Thailand and the Philippines

Lead Research Organisation: University of Liverpool
Department Name: Institute of Infection and Global Health


In many Low to Middle Income Countries (LMICs) poultry meat and eggs are produced in small scale flocks using indigenous breeds of birds. This contrasts with countries that produce meat in large commercial units using chicken strains specifically bred for use in highly controlled environmental conditions with maximal meat production in as short a time as possible. Indigenous breeds are cross-bred and produce fewer eggs and less meat than their commercial equivalent but are are an important source of food at the family or local community level. However, due to differences in regulatory practices, the use of antimicrobials (AMs) as growth promoters is prevalent which limits future commercial development and promotes the spread and maintenance of antimicrobial resistance. The use of AMs needs to be reduced by the provision of alternative growth promoters.

Commercial breeding programmes have resulted in broilers that preferentially deposit muscle (ie breast meat) over allocating proteins toward other processes, including, probably, the immune response. Under commercial conditions of good biosecurity, optimised high nutrient diets over short timescales in highly controlled conditions, commercial birds are very productive. In contrast, indigenous birds are smaller, have a lower nutrient demand and are immunologically more robust; they are however, far less productive. This combination of differing bird genetic background and nutritional requirements along with potentially different immunological responses and intestinal microflora means that poultry disease susceptibility and the potential for colonisation by zoonotic pathogens may be different in indigenous birds. We wish to determine if Indigenous breeds of poultry and modern hybrid birds differ in their genetics, gut microbiome and immunological parameters and establish if these differences associated and if they can be exploited for disease control and management.

The major bacterial zoonotic pathogens, Salmonella enterica and Campylobacter jejuni, frequently colonise poultry and consequently present a very significant human health risk due to contamination of meat or eggs. In addition, certain types of S. enterica (the serovars Pullorum and Gallinarum) also present a disease risk to chickens, affecting the health and welfare of the flock. Our aim is to characterise the infection of an indigenous breed of chicken in backyard flocks to determine how infection modulates the composition of the bacterial community living in the chicken gut and the AM resistance genes that are present. In addition, we will characterise how the immune response of the indigenous birds responds to infection. We will use this information to develop a probiotic to competitively exclude Salmonella and/or Campylobacter and also develop a cheap and simple test for the presence of different types of Salmonella in backyard flocks. This project will provide both commercial and backyard producers with a much-needed management tool to reduce the disease burden and health risk associated with poultry products.

Planned Impact

Who may benefit from this research?

The research will directly benefit the Thai and Filipino poultry industries. In the case of Thailand the research benefits a largely commercial industry focussed on export and domestic supply. In the Philippines, the work is more directed towards support of backyard producers of native breeds and eggs for local markets and home consumption

International poultry industries

Public in Thailand and Philippines

Academic and industrial research communities

How will they benefit?
1. Improved control and diagnostics of bacterial infections such as Salmonella and Campylobacter that affect bird and human health
2. Improved skills, capacity and knowledge base around poultry health and food safety
3. Increased food safety for poultry meat and eggs in Thailand and Philippines
4. Improved knowledge of the genetics and biology of SE Asian indigenous chickens
5. Better development of probiotics directly relevant to SE Asian chicken production
6. Reduction in the public health barriers to export of poultry meat from SE Asia
7. Development of training resources
8. Improvements in poultry management, health and welfare
9. Improved understanding of the avian microbiome, its diversity and its role in health


10 25 50
Description Shared diagnostic development 
Organisation University of Surrey
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Discussion between teams of different project in Philippines to share diagnostic tools, samples and impact material
Collaborator Contribution Agreement to share resources for diagnostics of bacterial infections
Impact None as yet
Start Year 2019