Canadian Poultry Magazine

PIC Update: Poultry Epidemiologist Joins PPT

By Tim Nelson Executive Director and Kimberly Sheppard   

Features Business & Policy Trade

Poultry epidemiologist joins PPT

PIC is pleased to announce that Dr. Michele Guerin from the University
of Guelph has been appointed as an epidemiologist with the Department
of Population Medicine at the University.

The Poultry Program Team has a new member, epidemiologist Dr. Michele Guerin. Her skills will help the team, co-ordinated by the Poultry industry Council (PIC), face disease challenges in poultry and food safety issues. 

PIC is pleased to announce that Dr. Michele Guerin from the University of Guelph has been appointed as an epidemiologist with the Department of Population Medicine at the University.

This joint industry/university position is being substantially funded by a number of Poultry industry organizations (see below) through their contributions to the Poultry Program Team (PPT). 


“We’ve been waiting some time to fill this position with the right person, and we now have a very good candidate” said PIC Chairman Ed McKinlay.

“Michele will add significant value to the PPT by providing an additional skill-set and depth to the team” he said. “For the broader industry, that is continually facing disease challenges on any number of fronts, it is comforting to know that we finally have a poultry epidemiologist at the University of Guelph.”  

It is anticipated that with her professional background, attitude, strong academic credentials, formidable research discipline and comparative youth Michele will stimulate keen interest in students who we hope, will then pursue careers in poultry science, thus building the poultry industry presence at the university in the years to come.  

Michele has a longstanding relationship with the University of Guelph.  She received her D.V.M. degree from the Ontario Veterinary College (OVC) in 1993 and is licensed to practise veterinary medicine in Ontario.  Following graduation, she worked in small animal and emergency practices in southern Ontario.  After working in private practice for eight years her interests in zoonotic diseases, food safety and public health led her to pursue graduate studies in veterinary epidemiology. She completed an M.Sc. (2003) and a PhD (2007) in epidemiology at the Department of Population Medicine at OVC.

Her graduate work on gastrointestinal illness in humans related to the consumption of contaminated foods of animal origin is absolutely pertinent to the food safety issues we currently face as an industry.  

For her M.Sc. thesis Michele investigated the link between temporal clusters of Salmonella serovars in animals and humans, with the goal of preventing outbreaks of salmonellosis in the human population through the timely detection of temporal clusters in animal groups.  

Michele’s PhD thesis focused on reducing the burden of foodborne illness associated with poultry consumption by identifying risk factors for the colonization of broiler flocks with Campylobacter and determining where intervention efforts should be targeted.

The relevance of her research to date, focussing on the public health aspects of poultry production, is of great importance to our industry, not only for the protection of the public from foodborne pathogens, but also to secure consumer confidence to ensure the marketability of poultry products.  

We welcome Michele into the industry and look forward to working with her into the foreseeable future.

PIC Project 216: Optimizing or manipulating broiler growth
Dr. Steve Leeson, University of Guelph

Genetic potential for broiler growth continues to increase yearly.  Broiler birds are growing faster and reaching market weight earlier today than ever before.  As a result, they are being switched to finisher diets earlier as well.  By 2010, 1.75-kg pullets could easily reach market weight by 28 days of age – meaning the switch to a finisher diet could occur as early as 24 days.

This is of concern for a couple of reasons.  Firstly, finisher diets are devoid of some nutrients that are necessary for optimal growth at such a young age.  Nutritional requirements and feeding/management practices must keep up with a changing bird.  To date there has been no work published on finisher diets for 1.75-kg pullets.  Secondly, younger birds have less developed bone and cartilage.  At only 28 days of age, it is likely that this very immature bird will be more difficult to process mechanically due to bone and cartilage breakage.

Clearly, management options that delay market age need to be investigated.  Dr. Steve Leeson (University of Guelph) has been investigating these issues by looking at the nutritional effects of diets varying in metabolizable energy, Lysine levels, and texture.
His findings? It’s all about texture! 

To read more, visit and click on “Research Results.” 

PIC Project 187, New method to inhibit avian influenza virus replication
Dr. Serguei Golovan, University of Guelph

Vaccine-based control of Avian Influenza (AI) in commercial poultry is considered, at best, only partially effective due to natural reservoirs of the virus in wild waterfowl and rapid random mutations of field strains.  One possible control strategy is to stop the virus in infected cells from copying itself by using a molecule that interferes with this process.  This is called RNA interference (RNAi) and its discoverers were awarded the Nobel Prize in 2006.

This strategy has been extensively developed as an anti-viral drug in humans, and a similar approach would be extremely valuable for inhibiting viral replication and studying gene function in poultry.

Dr. Serguei Golovan, together with his M.Sc. student Arusyak Abrahamyan and collaborators Drs. Eva Nagy and Shayan Sharif, have been conducting experiments to determine whether RNAi works with chicken cells and could be used for stopping AI virus replication by designing and testing RNAi molecules.

His findings?  The designed molecules had different impacts on different types of cells.  The RNAi molecule was able to decrease infective levels of AI virus in one type of cell up to 106 fold compared to cells in which the molecule was not used.  To read more, visit and click on “Research Results.”

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