New research to help eliminate most common food poisoning bug
15 February 2012
Eliminating the most common cause of food poisoning from the food chain is the aim of new research funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the world-leading UK-based poultry breeding company Aviagen.
Campylobacter is responsible for more than 300,000 cases of food poisoning a year in England and Wales and is estimated to cost the UK economy up to £600M a year. It is usually passed to humans via poultry meat which has not been cooked or handled properly. While good hygiene and thorough cooking kills the bug, preventing it entering the food chain in the first instance would dramatically reduce the risk of infection. To this end, BBSRC and Aviagen have awarded Scottish researchers £1.3M to map genes responsible for resistance to the bug with the view to being able to breed Campylobacter-resistant chickens in the future.
Chickens are able to tolerate relatively large amounts of Campylobacter in their guts without harm which allows the bacteria to thrive. However, some breeds of chicken are able to naturally resist the bacteria's colonisation - reducing the chances of it entering the food chain. Now researchers from The Roslin Institute at the University of Edinburgh, a BBSRC- funded institute, will spend the next three years mapping the genes and gene mutations responsible for increased resistance to colonisation of Campylobacter in chicken guts.
Professor Peter Kaiser, from The Roslin Institute, who will lead the study, explains: "We already know from our previous work with non-commercial birds that some chickens are able to reduce the levels of bacterium in their guts by 10-000 fold relative to other breeds. We have already identified four regions of the genome that contribute to this resistance. This new research programme should allow us to locate the actual genes responsible for this increased resistance.
"Our work offers the potential to develop a quick and targeted approach to breeding poultry that are more resistant to Campylobacter colonisation and so prevent it from entering the food chain."
Jim McAdam, Aviagen'sUK Breeding Programme Director, said: "We are very pleased to have joined forces with BBSRC to be able to make this award in a very important area of food security. While steps can and are being taken to reduce the chances of Campylobacter reaching peoples' plates, this research aims to get to the very heart of the problem - reducing the amount of Campylobacter in the poultry population through breeding for increased resistance to colonisation."
Professor Douglas Kell, BBSRC Chief Executive said: "The food security challenge facing us is not just about ensuring there is enough food to feed the rising global population, but that the food we produce is as safe as possible. This new research highlights the essential role cutting-edge bioscience can play in addressing such issues."
This research is funded by a BBSRC-LINK grant which promotes academic and industrial collaboration in pre-competitive research.
Notes to editors
In 2010 the UK's main public funders of food safety research, including BBSRC, joined together to publish and co-ordinated strategy to investigate Campylobacter.
Aviagen is the world's leading poultry breeding company, developing pedigree lines for the production of broiler chickens under the Ross, Arbor Acres and Indian River brand names. The company is based in Newbridge, Scotland with a number of wholly-owned operations across Europe, Latin America, Brazil, India, Australia, New Zealand, Turkey and the USA and joint ventures in Asia. Aviagen employs over 2,800 people and has a distribution network serving customers in 120 countries.
For further information please visit: www.aviagen.com
BBSRC invests in world-class bioscience research and training on behalf of the UK public. Our aim is to further scientific knowledge, to promote economic growth, wealth and job creation and to improve quality of life in the UK and beyond.
Funded by Government, and with an annual budget of around £445M, we support research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes. BBSRC research and the people we fund are helping society to meet major challenges, including food security, green energy and healthier, longer lives. Our investments underpin important UK economic sectors, such as farming, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.