Canadian Poultry Magazine

PIC Update: Poultry Program Team (PPT) Focus

By PIC   

Features Profiles Researchers

Poultry Program Team (PPT) focus

Tim Nelson, Executive Director, and Kimberly Sheppard, Research Co-ordinator


‘Quiet achiever’ Dr. Babak Sanei is an essential member of the team

A couple of issues ago we profiled new PPT member Dr. Michele Guerin.

This month we focus     our attention on one of the quiet achievers in the world of poultry research and education, PPT team member and OMAFRA veterinarian Dr. Babak Sanei.

OMAFRA veterinarian Dr. Babak Sanei  specializes in the prevention, management and mitigation of the impact of significant poultry diseases.

The PPT members (Drs. Shayan Sharif, Gregoy Bedecarrats and Michele Guerin and Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) Poultry Specialist Al Dam) provide an essential service and link between research, education and the real world – industry.

Dr. Sanei specializes in the prevention, management and mitigation of the impact of significant poultry diseases. What follows is just a small fraction of the work he’s involved in.


In close collaboration with the Animal Health Laboratory (AHL) at University of Guelph (U of G), participating hatcheries and company veterinarians this surveillance program monitors the “free” status of Ontario hatcheries and poultry breeder flocks. Free in this case means free from of significant poultry diseases and some food-borne pathogens.

Babak is a member of the National Avian Biosecurity Advisory Council which is currently working to develop National Biosecurity standards. He is also a member of the Avian Influenza Expert Committee (CFIA) which provides a national forum for AI experts to discuss issues of specific concern and provide recommendations for Canada’s preparedness and response.

He’s part of the OMAFRA group developing AI emergency response activities and monitoring the disease trends of various poultry pathogens (to minimize the spread) of diseases, such as ILT and AI.

In 2006 (collaborating with Dr. Ojkic) the PPT helped facilitate funding for AHL to develop the diagnostic ability to sequence and compare strains of ILT viruses isolated from multiple field outbreaks. This knowledge helps us to differentiate between vaccine and wild strains of ILT and has proven to be valuable in the investigation of ILT outbreaks.

PPT is currently looking to support Dr. Hugh Cai at the AHL to initiate the development of PCR testing for Mycoplasma gallisepticum (MG) and Mycoplasma synoviae (MS). Both organisms can impose significant losses to breeder industry, and having rapid, accurate diagnosis a crucial management tool.

His research work is diverse, ranging between a Biosecurity Education initiative project for non-supply managed avian species (with Al Dam and Dr. Bruce Hunter), working with the AHL on a preliminary study on Inclusion Body Hepatitis (IBH) cases in Ontario to a collaboration that is examining the use of Pro- and Prebiotics for control of food-borne pathogens and immune stimulation in poultry.

His education work equally so from authoring fact sheets on applied issues to the organizing committee for the recent 2008 OAPP Technical symposium. He chaired the continuing education committee at the American College of Poultry Veterinarians (ACPV) between 2005 and 2008 and organized their annual workshops from 2005-07, and is currently organizing the upcoming AAAP-ACPV symposium in New Orleans (July 2008).

He takes succession seriously and is an advisory committee member of a PhD student at the department of pathobiology.

In between all this he’s somehow finding time to study for an MBA, read and hit the gym but most importantly he and his wife have recently had a baby daughter Eleena. Congratulations to them.

If you have questions about poultry diseases – Dr. Babak Sanei is a good person to know and he’d be happy to hear from you. He can be contacted at: .

Dr. Letellier obtained her degree in microbiology from the Université de Sherbrooke in 1987. She completed a M.Sc. in microbiology and pathology at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of the Université de Montréal in Saint-Hyacinthe in 1989 and her PhD studying the epidemiology and control of Salmonella in swine in 2000.

From 1996 she developed an R&D and diagnostic laboratory as well as acting as an HACCP consultant for businesses in the agri-food sector. During this time in collaboration with Dr. Sylvain Quessy, she developed a serological kit to detect swine infected with Salmonella.

In 2002, Dr. Letellier reoriented her career at the Université de Montréal as a research assistant until 2003 when she was named Research Chair on Meat Safety. In October 2005,
she was appointed Chair. 

In addition to her research chair, she is responsible for overseeing the Salmonella surveillance program in swine in Quebec.

As a researcher, she supervises and co-supervises trainees, mainly M.Sc. candidates, on topics such as epidemiology, control and characterization of food pathogens, the impact of using growth promoters in swine and poultry, and the development of diagnostic tools and alternatives to antimicrobial agents.
Her research interests are focused on better understanding the epidemiology of food-borne pathogens in order to enhance infection control.

To contact Dr. Letellier, e-mail .

Dr. Ann Letellier, University of Montreal

The Challenge
Subtherapeutic doses of antibacterial agents such as zinc bacitracin (ZB) and virginiamycin (VG) are used as growth promoting agents (GPs) in broiler production to enhance feed efficiency. While regulations have been put in place in Europe to reduce the use of antibiotics as GPs, the broiler industry in Canada still uses them. There is some concern that this practice is promoting antibiotic resistance by bacteria and it is believed that the bacteria use different mechanisms to create that resistance.

The Research
Dr. Ann Letellier together with her research team and masters student Alexandre Thibodeau, evaluated the effect of using GP (ZB and VG) on antibacterial resistance in commensal E. coli and Enterococcus species.  They also studied the effects of these two GPs on specific genes that are thought to play a role in the development of antibacterial resistance by the bacteria. The researchers used a commercial farm for the research where they fed groups of birds diets with or without ZB or VG.

Strains of E.  coli and Enterococcus species were isolated from fecal material and litter from each group, and the samples were tested for their susceptibility to various antibacterial agents.

Their Findings?

The use of antibacterial agents as growth promoters in a well-managed flock does not increase performance of broiler chickens.  Diets containing VG and ZB were found to significantly increase presence of one of the resistance genes studied. The VG diet had a greater impact on increasing the presence of this resistance gene. The GPs did not show specific resistance in Enterococcus spp and their use seemed to decrease the percentage of E. coli isolates that were resistant to some antibacterial agents. The work leaves the question open as to whether other resistance genes might be involved in the resistance to VG.

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