New Ideas for the Fight Against Salmonella

CAES poultry science department receives $3M ARS grant

A partnership between the U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and the Department of Poultry Science in the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences is harnessing the research power of both organizations to improve food safety by addressing broiler gut health. 

Since 2016, a team of about 10 CAES poultry scientists have received approximately $3 million in USDA funding to research gut health in broiler chickens and how the use of nanoparticle vaccines and advanced poultry nutrition can keep flocks healthy.

“The poultry industry has really moved into the ‘no antibiotics ever’ space and that has had a lot of consequences to the animals and in poultry production,” said Todd Applegate, department head and professor in the Department of Poultry Science. “Our researchers are having to tease out how best to come up with solutions to keeping animals and people healthy in the absence of antibiotics in commercial poultry farming. Having this support from the USDA, as well as their research capacity adding to our research capacity, is leading to many important lines of study.”

CAES poultry scientist Ramesh Selvaraj is working to formulate a killed salmonella vaccine for the broiler chicken industry that can be added to feed in the form of a nanoparticle coating that resists gastric digestion. Other researchers are looking at compounds that can replace antibiotics —including prebiotics, probiotics and plant extracts — that can provide some protection against salmonella in the broiler chickens’ gut.

“We are looking at the modes of action in gut health and genetic components of certain types of chickens. Every bird responds differently to pathogens — that is why we are looking at individuals from different broiler family lines for the range of responses so we can understand how better to cope with these challenges,” Applegate said.

The Department of Poultry Science is currently recruiting candidates for an endowed faculty position that will be funded through USDA grant funds.

“This will strengthen our collaborations and partnerships with the ARS as we continue to work directly with the scientists at the ARS in Athens looking at foodborne pathogens and the role of the microbiome in gut health,” Applegate said. “We hope that we can continue this line of research and collaboration with the USDA and ARS in the long term through the sharing of time, people and resources.” 

By Maria M. Lameiras