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Improving Gut Health and Nutrient Capture of Broiler Chickens through Selection for Innate Immune Function

Institute for Animal Health
Roslin Institute
Aviagen Ltd
Cobb-Vantress Inc
Start date
End date
The UK poultry industry faces numerous challenges in order to remain sustainable. These include the imminent move to more extensive rearing systems; the withdrawal of prophylactic and many therapeutic antibiotics, and other drugs such as anti-coccidials; resistance and residue problems with anti-helminthics. These challenges will all have an impact on poultry health. It is important that poultry breeders are able to select for genetic improvement in performance when birds are reared in such environments, which should also lead to improvements in nutrient capture.

This programme will seek to:

  1. Provide a bridge between conventional positional (QTL) and physiological candidate gene approaches to identify genes controlling variation in innate immune responses
  2. Define the extent of genetic variability in loci that influence the innate immune response of the chicken and relate this to resistance/susceptibility to Salmonella and Campylobacter, and also the impact of these variations on nutrient capture
  3. Determine the relevance in commercial broiler populations of genetic variation in immune response found in inbred research lines
  4. Provide new opportunities for selective breeding of commercial broilers for improved innate resistance to enteric disease and hence improved nutrient capture and food safety
Expected benefits to the food chain: in the short term, improved selection parameters for increased innate immune fitness, or robustness. In the long-term, more robust chickens able to cope with the demands of an extensive, sustainable farming system. This should result in lower levels of contamination with the food-borne zoonotic pathogens Salmonella and Campylobacter. It is also likely to lead to improved nutrient capture, resulting in lower emissions, thereby contributing further to improving the sustainability of the industry.
Funding Source
Dept. for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Project number
Natural Toxins
Viruses and Prions
Bacterial Pathogens
Chemical Contaminants
Meat, Poultry, Game