Chicken study probes resistance to Campylobacter

Receiving gut microbes from resistant chickens does not lessen chickens’ susceptibility to bacterium that causes food poisoning. 

Susceptible chickens became even more susceptible to Campylobacter, the scientists were surprised to find.

Transplanting gut microbes from chickens that are relatively resistant to Campylobacter bacteria into chickens that are susceptible does not improve resistance, a study has shown.

These findings were unexpected, contradicting previous studies in mice.

Campylobacter infections are a serious problem in people, resulting in diarrhoea and severe complications in some cases. Up to 80% of cases are caused by consumers handling and eating contaminated chicken meat.

Each year, it is estimated that more than half a million people in the UK are infected with Campylobacter and the disease costs the country approximately £50 million.

Surveys have shown that a high proportion of fresh retail chicken is contaminated with Campylobacter and strategies are needed to tackle this issue.

To determine the types and numbers of microbes present, Roslin scientists analysed the genetic makeup of gut microbiota from chicken lines with different resistance to the bacteria.

Transplanted gut bacteria only survived in the susceptible chickens for a limited time and those chickens became even more susceptible to Campylobacter, the scientists were surprised to find.

The scientists made use of the unique poultry lines held by the National Avian Research Facility at the Roslin Institute.

“Given the results of previous studies in mice, we thought that inherited differences in resistance to gut pathogens might be transferable by transplanting gut microbiota from chickens that are resistant to chickens that are susceptible,” said Dr Cosmin Chintoan-Uta, study co-lead, the Roslin Institute:

“We were surprised to find that while heritable differences in resistance of chickens to Campylobacter exist, these are not explained by significant variation in the gut microbiota,” said Trong Wisedchanwet, study co-lead, the Roslin Institute.

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