Research funded by the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association studied the functional genomic and DNA microarray approach to identify key innate immunity genes as a novel selection method to identify chickens with increased resistance to disease.
The study is part of the association’s extensive industry research program encompassing all segments of broiler, turkey, and commercial egg operations. Approximately $2.7 million is currently invested in ongoing research.
Gene analysis to aid selection for disease resistance
Chickens are most susceptible to infections during their first week of life. Innate immunity is the mechanism hatchlings have to protect themselves. By identifying chickens with increased innate immune responsiveness, it is likely to select breeding stock that produce progeny with increased resistance to multiple bacterial infections, still maintaining the desired growth qualities required by the industry.
The study has shown that there are clear and measurable innate immunity parameters under genetic control. This knowledge will allow the Association to evaluate individual lines of chickens and provide the poultry industry with valuable information regarding the immune-competence of breeding stock.
Moving into practical application
“We are now moving beyond the theoretical and into the practical application with the ongoing selection trial. We have: (1) identified a broiler population of sires with stronger and/or weaker-than-average pro-inflammatory cytokine/chemokine responses and (2) utilised small numbers of high and low responding sires to produce progeny with increased or decreased, respectively, pro-inflammatory cytokine/chemokine profiles,” according to the Association.
“We believe this will allow us to improve the broiler population of breeding stock by improving their immunological responsiveness. The desired growth qualities would already be in place but now the line would also have an effective pro-inflammatory innate immune response with improved resistance against diverse pathogens, as well as improved immune responses to vaccines. A new line of chickens based on selection of an innate immune response would hopefully yield birds that exhibit resistance to multiple pathogens, increased responsiveness to vaccination, require fewer antibiotics, increased livability, and are generally healthier.”