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PIC Update: April 2009

Salmonella IgY Detection

April 22, 2009


University of Montreal researchers have developed a promising mix-ELISA
test that can be a tool for detecting Salmonella- contaminated breeder

Salmonella Surveillance
Researchers have been working on development of a mix-ELISA (test for
antibodies detection) for detection of salmonella IgY in broiler
breeder eggs, which is less stressful for the birds than taking blood

University of Montreal researchers have developed a promising mix-ELISA test that can be a tool for detecting Salmonella- contaminated breeder flocks.


Salmonella is a common bacterium that occurs throughout the world. Most human illnesses are caused by Salmonella enterica, which has been classified into over 2500 serotypes (serotypes are micro-organims that are closely related but have different antigens).  Salmonellosis increased dramatically in the 1980s, and since then Salmonella has been a major public health concern. Chicken is a notable food-animal source of Salmonella.

In 1996, the United States implemented the Pathogen Reduction Rule, which imposed a maximum rate of Salmonella contamination of chicken carcasses of 20 per cent to plants exporting to the U.S. This means that every effort must be undertaken to reduce contamination of chicken carcasses at the slaughterhouse level. This is achievable when the prevalence at the flock level is under control, but it can be problematic when flock prevalence is high. Although Salmonella Typhimurium and Salmonella Enteritidis are the most prevalent cause of illness in humans, all Salmonella serotypes are considered pathogenic for humans and thus covered by control programs at the slaughterhouse. Determining practical methods of Salmonella surveillance will greatly assist the industry in identification and control of Salmonella contamination.

Drs. Ann Letellier and Sylvette Laurent-Lewandowski, University of Montreal, have been working toward this end. There are a number of commonly identified serotypes of Salmonella associated with chickens, with the most common serovars being S. Enteritidis, S. Kentucky, S. Heidelberg, S. Typhimurium, S. Senftenberg, and S. Enteritidis. Since the mid 1990s, the prevalence of S. Enteritidis has been declining in chickens, whereas that of S. Heidelberg has been on the rise.

To the researchers’ knowledge, the best approach to reduce Salmonella serotypes in broiler chicken farms is to evaluate the status of breeder flocks and establish a set of corrective actions in positive flocks (including investigating Salmonella introduction sources and instituting biosecurity measures).  The researchers have been working on development of a mix-ELISA (test for antibodies detection) for detection of Salmonella IgY in broiler breeder eggs, which is less stressful for the birds than taking blood samples.

Their findings? A mix-ELISA using Salmonella purified lipopolysaccharides antigens (LPS) from eight major Salmonella serotypes, S. Enteritidis, S. Hadar, S. Brandenburg, S. Heidelberg, S.Agona, S. Kentucky, S. Typhimurium, and S. Thompson in poultry was developed. Antibodies were successfully extracted from egg-yolks using a simple method, which gives consistent results.  This ELISA is very promising as it is low cost and easy to use.  The ELISA is likely to be easily adjusted to test for emerging serotypes as well.  To read more about this study, please visit .

Featured Researcher


Martin Zuidhof was born and raised a pig farmer in central Alberta. His love of applied science led him to pursue a B.Sc., then an M.Sc., in Animal Production, and finally a PhD, in Animal Science, all from the University of Alberta. Martin spent 15 years specializing in poultry at Alberta Agriculture, which he left in the fall of 2008. He is now an Associate Professor of Poultry Science at the University of Alberta. His research focuses on bioeconomic modeling, which involves identifying and optimizing innovative production systems. He has collaborated extensively with Drs. Frank Robinson and Rob Renema. Together, they have pursued the challenges of feeding and managing broiler breeders and linking maternal efficiency to efficiency and yield in broilers. His research caught the attention of the National Chicken Council, who granted an award in 2008 for broiler research that has had a positive impact on the U.S., poultry industry. He will continue to seek innovative ways to apply science to fine-tune the art of poultry production in his new role as a teacher and researcher at the University of Alberta.

PIC Picks
As you read this the London Poultry Show will have been and gone and it will be an interesting litmus test of how the industry is reacting to the economic downturn. The most normal reaction during these tough times; is to look at your business operation and try to seek efficiency improvements and reduce costs. When things are going well it’s often hard to identify the one or two little improvements that might provide some incremental productivity gains. Tough times have a tendency to focus the mind on some of the issues that have been niggling away in the background for some time, and there may be some you don’t have solutions for.

My experience working with poultry farmers in Australia would suggest, that if you have a problem with something, chances are you’re no orphan. So this is an ideal time for you to surface problems at an industry level and we invite you to contact us with the issue(s) so that we can look at either, developing a research question, or an education program that will ultimately benefit the whole industry. Alternatively – as with our call at last years conference, if you have developed some tool, technique or process that has saved you some time and/or money that you believe others could benefit from, don’t keep it to yourself. PIC is the conduit through which solutions to technical issues on poultry farms can and will find their way out to the industry at large.

A good case in point is the recently released ILT Fact Sheet, (copies of the full fact sheet can be found on our website, or just give us a call. See PIC update in the next issue of Canadian Poultry Magazine for a summary). We heard there was some concern about ILT and that some producers were not sure about ILT so we’ve produced some information, good practical information about this disease, how to recognize the symptoms, what it may be costing you in production and what to do about it. ILT is something that might be stopping you making as much money as you could. Find out about it and ensure you are clear of it!

PIC have been working with Dr. Bill Van Heyst at the University of Guelph to get a better idea of what comes out of poultry barns and into the atmosphere and into the environment. You’ll be aware of the ‘beefed up’ emissions legislation that came into effect on March 1st and we should all be looking at how this might affect poultry production. The first cut of Bills work is on our website and his valuable work is ongoing – please contact us for an update. I recently met with poultry industry people and government officials working in the EU on agricultural “outputs.” Whilst much of the regulation being introduced across the EU is market driven and in the realm of moderately sensible, for example, inspection and reporting of the severity of Pododermatitis (Hock burn), a measure which has been used to evaluate broiler welfare for some time, becomes mandatory in 2010. However many of the stories highlight ridiculous measures being imposed on farmers simply to meet regulations. For example, being forced to cultivate fields according to a calendar not when the conditions are right, the government prosecuting a farmer on behalf of his family (without asking them) because they live too close to their poultry barn, and the broiler industry in Northern Ireland exporting used broiler litter by ship to Scotland to produce energy, (where does biosecurity fit in this scenario?), I could go on.

Two things are clear; Firstly we’re lucky we farm in Canada, secondly the work Bill is doing and that you’re supporting through PIC in this area is critical if we are to avoid our combined poultry industries heading down the same path as EU poultry farmers. We need to be prepared for some turbulent times ahead in relation to our environmental impact and with your continued support we will be. Please contact PIC for more information

Optimizing production of omega-3 enriched broiler meat
Dr. Martin Zuidhof, University of Alberta
Consumers are increasingly conscious of the effects of food on their health, and have more information with which they can make choices that contribute to long term health.  Omega-3 products are receiving more consumer attention than ever, and Omega-3 has been successfully incorporated into table eggs by feeding laying hens omega-3 fatty acids.  Similarly, broiler chickens incorporate omega-3 fatty acids into their muscle tissues when fed flaxseed, which contains high levels of fat, and over 50 per cent of that fat is linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid.

Although there is a potential market opportunity for omega-3 enriched chicken, the development of such a product is not without challenges.  Feeding flaxseed increases production costs, reduces performance efficiency, and has the potential to taint the flavour of the meat.  The industry needs to overcome these obstacles if omega-3 poultry products are to be developed and offered to consumers.

Dr. Martin Zuidhof and his research team at the University of Alberta have been working on designing an optimal production scheme for omega-3 enriched broiler meat that is of acceptable quality, and is palatable to consumers.  Specifically, they were interested in optimal feeding levels for flax, optimal timing and duration of feeding flax, palatability, and incorporation of omega-3 into different muscle types, (i.e. breast vs. thigh).

They fed two levels of ground flaxseed (10 and 17 per cent) to broilers for different lengths of time prior to processing, and measured growth, efficiency, yield, production costs, consumer acceptance, and omega-3 fatty acid levels in the meat.
Their findings?  Breast meat could be labeled a source of omega-3 fatty acids after 24 days of feeding 10 per cent flaxseed. Alternatively, thigh meat was enriched within in a much shorter time. It is very likely that the low cost of producing enriched thighs (six cents per live kg), can be recovered through added product value. Consumer studies indicated no difference in consumer perception between regular and enriched meat, however meat quality was reduced with increasing durations of flaxseed feeding.  Research team members on this project included:  Fernando Hernandez, Brenda Schneider, Val Carney, Rob Renema, Mirko Betti, Wendy Wismer and Doug Korver.  To read more about this study, please visit