Genetics developing disease-resistant, more resilient and productive sub-Saharan African chickens

calendar icon 23 October 2020
clock icon 3 minute read

Scientists have identified genes that could be linked to resistance to major poultry diseases, which could improve the health, productivity and resilience of chickens in sub-Saharan Africa.

Their findings could inform selective breeding to help limit the incidence of infectious bursal disease, Marek’s disease and fowl typhoid, as well as the important parasite infections Eimeria and cestode.

Genes associated with important traits, such as productivity and disease resistance, are similar in two distinct indigenous chicken populations from different environments in Ethiopia, the study shows.

Pooling genetic data

This was the first time researchers have collectively studied genetic data from African chickens known to be genetically different despite belonging to the same species.

Scientists analysed more than 700 chickens from villages in two distinct parts of Ethiopia. Some were from a high altitude, humid region, while others were from a lowland, arid part of the country.

They studied the chickens’ whole genetic makeup to look for common variations associated with specific traits.

Given the success of the study, bigger genetic datasets can be used for research to speed up genomic selection, the scientists concluded.

This work was the outcome of an interdisciplinary effort from scientists in multiple research institutes. Our study contributes to better understanding the dynamics and potential of indigenous African genetic resources for the benefit of poultry farming. We hope that the message conveyed by the present work will promote future collaborations across different regions.

Dr Androniki PsifidiRoslin Institute and Royal Veterinary College

We are very excited with these results and plan to continue our work on improving chicken productivity and farm sustainability. Chicken production has a multifaceted role in alleviating hunger and poverty, and enhancing social structures and quality of life in sub-Saharan Africa.

Professor Georgios BanosScotland’s Rural College (SRUC) and Roslin Institute

The study, published in Frontiers in Genetics, involved scientists from Centre for Tropical Livestock Genetics and Health’ partners the Roslin Institute, SRUC and International Livestock Research Institute, and it has been funded by the UK Research and Innovation’s Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, the Scottish Government and CTLGH.

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