Canadian Poultry Magazine

CPRC Update: June 2009

By CPRC   

Features Profiles Researchers


The majority of the Canadian Poultry Research Council’s (CPRC) support
for research is directed towards four main priority areas. Research
priorities are determined by CPRC members in consultation with industry
stakeholders, government representatives and academics during national

The majority of the Canadian Poultry Research Council’s (CPRC) support for research is directed towards four main priority areas. Research priorities are determined by CPRC members in consultation with industry stakeholders, government representatives and academics during national workshops. These workshops are held every five years to assess the impact of research funded and to adjust, if necessary, industry’s research priorities. Preparations are underway for the next workshop to be held May 2010 in Ottawa.

Avian Gut Microbiology
One of the priority areas identified in 2004 was Avian Gut Microbiology. This broad theme is centred on a better understanding of the effects of antimicrobials commonly used in the poultry industry, and how these compounds can most effectively be used.


Here is a brief summary of results coming out of the Avian Gut Microbiology program as they relate to Canada’s poultry industry, along with an indication of where this program is going:

Effect of Antimicrobials
As mentioned, one of the desired outcomes of this research program is a better understanding of antimicrobial effects on populations of avian gut microbes. A joint project with researchers from AAFC, University of Guelph and Texas A&M looked at these populations and how they are affected by bacitracin and virginiamycin. Genetic analysis revealed that many bacterial groups were affected by the presence of antibiotics, especially virginiamycin. The researchers also found that virginiamycin increased the immune response to certain antigens. This surprising result may provide insight as to why low levels of antibiotics can improve broiler chicken performance. Work is ongoing to further characterize changes in immune system gene expression in response to antibiotics. This information will be crucial to finding ways to improve the chicken’s immune function, both to enhance the effectiveness of current antibiotics and to perhaps reduce the need for them in the future.

Effect of Enzymes
Researchers at the University of Manitoba are exploiting the ability of a class of enzymes known as carbohydrases to break down components of feeds that are not well digested by poultry. The presence of these components in the gut is thought to promote the growth of pathogenic organisms such as Clostridium perfringens, the causative organism of necrotic enteritis (NE). Research has shown that the enzymes can help mitigate the negative effects of C.
perfringens challenge, especially when birds are fed wheat-based diets. The enzymes also increase the nutritive value of diets that contain flaxseed.

The C. perfringens story is complex and there is still much to be learned about how it causes disease in poultry. A group of researchers at the University of Guelph is comparing strains of C. perfringens in the gut of birds suffering from NE to those in healthy birds. Only certain strains of the bacterium cause disease. This work will identify defining characteristics of disease-causing strains and provide clues as to how production strategies could be adjusted to minimize their numbers.

Similar work at the Vaccine Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO) in Saskatchewan is examining strains of Campylobacter jejuni that differ in their ability to colonize the chicken gut. C. jejuni is the leading cause of bacterial gastroenteritis in humans. If we have a better understanding of how this bacterium colonizes the gut, we may be able to reduce its numbers in poultry products.

Alternative Methods
A group of AAFC scientists is collaborating with researchers from the University of Sherbrooke to examine the potential of special molecules to stimulate avian immune responses to pathogens. These molecules have been shown to increase immune responses in mice; if they can do the same in poultry, they could be used to enhance the effectiveness of avian vaccines and/or offset the use of traditional antimicrobials.

Another group of AAFC scientists is building on what we already know about C. perfringens by looking at how these bacteria “talk” to each other. Cell to cell communications are thought to be integral to the process by which subpopulations of these bacteria cause disease.  Understanding this process will provide clues on how we might prevent pathogenesis.

Bacteriophages have long been touted as a potential alternative to controlling bacterial infections. This special class of virus targets specific bacteria based on surface receptors. A new project at the University of Alberta with collaborators from the National Research Council will be looking at the potential of bacteriophage, or perhaps even small components of them, to control C. jejuni populations. This research complements other bacteriophage work underway in Canada and abroad.

Taken together, the research very briefly outlined above represents a multi-faceted approach to the complex issue of antimicrobial use in the poultry sector. The research projects, supported by CPRC and many other organizations that provided matching funds, complement each other and related research elsewhere. CPRC intends to use this collaborative approach to address issues of concern to the industry. We will update you on continuing progress.

 For more details on any CPRC activities, please contact Gord Speksnijder at The Canadian Poultry Research Council, 483 Arkell Rd., R.R. #2, Guelph, Ontario, N1H 6H8, by phone at 289-251-2990, by faxat 519-837-3584, or by e-mail at, or visit us at

The membership of the CPRC consists of the Chicken Farmers of Canada, Canadian Hatching Egg Producers, Turkey Farmers of Canada, Egg Farmers of Canada and the Canadian Poultry and Egg Processors’ Council. CPRC’s mission is to address its members’ needs through dynamic leadership in the creation and implementation of programs for poultry research in Canada, which may also include societal concerns.

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