An integrated approach to understanding mucosal immunity to Campylobacter infection in the chicken

Lead Research Organisation: University of Liverpool
Department Name: Veterinary Clinical Science


This project uses a new way of working, by combining modelling and experimental approaches together in a way that both informs each arm of the project, but more importantly brings them together allowing us to better understand the complex interactions of the mucosal immune response to the bacterial pathogen Campylobacter jejuni. C. jejuni is the most common cause of foodborne bacterial gastroenteritis worldwide, with the overwhelming majority of cases associated with chicken. Despite the fact that around 70% of UK retail chicken is contaminated with Campylobacter our understanding of its infection biology in the broiler chicken in surprisingly limited. Our recent work has begun to elucidate the innate immune response to infection of the chicken and combining data from these studies with a modelling approach through Bayesian structural equation modelling has allowed us to identify immunological differences between chicken breeds that underlie differences in infection phenotype. This project will build upon previous work to model innate, adaptive and regulatory responses during C. jejuni infection to determine which are involved in long-term colonization of the chicken, those associated with clearance of infection and those with poor gut health. Using this combined approach gives us a unique insight as to what is important and how this could be utilized in controls such as vaccines or make improvements to chicken gut health thereby improving animal health and welfare and ultimately reduce the burden of Campylobacter associated with chicken production.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
BB/M011186/1 01/10/2015 30/09/2023
1644280 Studentship BB/M011186/1 01/10/2015 30/09/2019 Rachel Anne Gilroy
Description - Early modulation of the chicken microbiome by administration of a caecal microbiota transplant (CMT) from an adult bird will significantly impact subsequent C. jejuni infection biology in an experimental model. This was assessed as having more significant impact in the reduction of C. jejuni colonisation compared to a leading commercial avian competitive exclusion product.
- Campylobacter jejuni is able to rapidly and persistently colonise the avian caeca, with this inducing an inflammatory response modulated by a network of cytokines and chemokines. This strongly supports previous findings and contradicts the earliest understanding that C. jejuni was commensal within the chicken microibome.
Exploitation Route -Provides preliminary data regarding the efficacy of CMT as a prophylactic treatment in the prevention of C. jejuni colonisation of the broiler chicken. Our work provides understanding that application in this way may delay colonisation of C. jejuni within the chicken to almost slaughter age, despite continued environmental exposure. It would be important to develop this research in terms of feasibility of CMT as a commercial product within the poultry industry, or at the very least, elucidate the beneficial microorganisms derived from CMT material that are currently lacking within the commercial probiotics available. It is also possible for the benefits seen here against C. jejuni infection to be extended to further foodborne pathogens, including salmonella.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology

Description Primer Design Postgraduate student sponsorship scheme
Amount £0 (GBP)
Organisation PrimerDesign 
Sector Private
Country United Kingdom
Start 02/2018 
End 02/2019
Description Meet the Scientist event 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Event held in the world museum, Liverpool. Chance for the general public to meet 'scientists' with various stalls and activities.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
Description careers spotlight event involving STEM 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Talking to small groups of year 6 children at a local primary school about my current job within science at what it entails including educational background and qualifications. Each spotlight lasted 10 minuted before receiving another small group to repeat the same spotlight.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016