July 23, 2024

Vaccinating Chickens Against Campylobacter

A scientist who presented a paper at the Society for General Microbiology’s spring conference in Dublin is developing a vaccine that could prevent Campylobacter in chickens. The research is being conducted at Washington State University.

Professor Michael Konkel, who is leading the research, is studying maternal antibodies that are naturally passed from hens to their chicks. The researchers have found the bacterial molecules the antibodies attack and are using them as a starting point for a vaccine.

Food poisoning caused by Campylobacter is quite common. In fact, this bacteria is the second most common cause of foodborne illness. A recent study at the University of Aberdeen found that 81% of chicken livers purchased at grocery stores in the UK contain Campylobacter.

A report called Ranking the Risks found that the food and bacteria combination that causes the most foodborne illness with the largest cost burden is Campylobacter in poultry.

Researchers and scientists haven’t been successful at preventing contamination of poultry at the point of slaughter. Preventing chickens from becoming colonized with Campylobacter on the farm is the best way to prevent human illness.

Konkel said, “If we an decrease the load of human pathogens in food animals, then we can reduce human illness. A 1% reduction in the number of cases of foodborne illness would save the UK around £20 million per year. In developing countries, where people and food animals often share the same environment, diseased animals also pose a direct public health risk; vaccination would help mitigate this risk.”

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