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Researchers Challenge Poultry Pathogens
By Rosalie Marion
Bliss December 7, 2004
An Agricultural Research Service immunologist has pioneered a novel
technology that will help develop nonchemical methods to control diseases that
affect poultry. ARS is the U.S.
Department of Agriculture's (USDA) chief
scientific research agency.
Whether baked, broiled or barbecued, poultry is an important source of
dietary protein. But its production has become increasingly threatened by a
disease called coccidiosis, which costs the U.S. poultry industry about $700
million annually. Coccidiosis is caused by multiple strains of Eimeria,
a genus of tiny, one-celled parasites that infect the birds' intestines.
Lillehoj, with ARS'
Parasitic Diseases Laboratory in Beltsville, Md., led a team of ARS
researchers in completing the first chicken intestinal genomics database
library. The new resource contains gene sequences that will be used to pursue
genomics-based control strategies to counter major poultry diseases.
The Eimeria parasite makes a protein, or antigen, that helps it
pry its way into a chicken host's cells. But the antigen also evokes an attack
response from the chicken's immune system. The new database will allow
scientists to exploit the attack response to outsmart and disrupt
Eimeria's ability to colonize and inflict intestinal damage.
Lillehoj's team will conduct additional research funded by a grant
from the National Research
Initiative. The NRI is administered by USDA's
Cooperative State Research, Education and
Extension Service. The team will use the new database to create microarray
gene chips--enclosed glass slides--that hold about 10,000 genes from the
chicken's intestinal cells.
As a research tool, the gene chips will help the scientists identify
the specific genes that help chickens fight off infections by pathogens such
as Eimeria, Salmonella or E. coli.
more about this research in this month's issue of Agricultural