Leicester geneticists involved in research into the UKs leading cause of food poisoning

Geneticists at the University are involved in new research, led by the University of Liverpool, which reveals that the immune response of farmed chickens does not develop fast enough to fight off Campylobacter during their short lifespan. The findings have important implications in the challenge towards developing a poultry vaccine for the bug, which is the UK's leading cause of food poisoning.

As both a public health and animal welfare issue, finding a way to control Campylobacter infection is a priority for the poultry industry. There are currently no commercial vaccines and their development is hampered by poor understanding of the immunobiology of the infection.

In the first study of functional immunity to Campylobacter jejuni in the chicken, researchers have shown that antibody production plays a role, albeit limited, in the clearance of intestinal infection. However, it fails to clear the bacterium within the lifetime of a commercial broiler chicken, which is typically around six weeks of age.

Professor Julian Ketley, Professor of Bacterial Genetics at the University of Leicester, said: “This work is part of a broader project to understand the events associated with the colonisation of the chicken gut by campylobacters. At Leicester we are looking at how the bacterial community in the gut is affected by the inhibition of B-lymphocytes and the effect of colonisation by Campylobacter.

The paper 'B lymphocytes play a limited role in clearance of Campylobacter jejuni from the chicken intestinal tract' is published in Scientific Reports.