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Study in Ethiopian chickens identifies key genetic markers for health and productivity

Researchers hope that the findings will help to support the development of healthier, more resilient, poultry across Africa.

16 October 2020, at 8:37am

Birds from two distinct chicken populations in Ethiopia share several genetic regions linked to key health and productivity traits, according to new research.

Scientists hope that the findings, published in the journal Frontiers in Genetics, will help to support the development of healthier, more resilient and more productive poultry in the future.

In the study, researchers analysed the DNA of more than 700 indigenous African village chickens from two distinct ecotypes in Ethiopia; one from a high altitude, humid region, whilst the other was from a lowland arid part of the country.

Researchers found that, despite being from contrasting environments, there were significant similarities in the genetic markers associated with production traits. Among them include putative candidate genes for resistance to Infectious Bursal Disease, Marek’s Disease and Fowl Typhoid, as well as Eimeria and cestode parasite infections.

The study was conducted by the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) the University of Liverpool and University of Edinburgh's Roslin Institute, together with partners of the Centre of Tropical Livestock Genetics and Health (CTLGH).

Dr Androniki Psifidi, a lecturer in veterinary clinical genetics at the RVC, said: “This work was the outcome of an interdisciplinary effort from scientists in multiple research institutes. Our study contributes to a better understanding of 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.”

Professor Georgios Banos, Professor of Animal and Veterinary Sciences from SRUC, added: “We are very excited with these results and plan to continue our work on improving chicken productivity and farm sustainability. Chicken production has and will always have a multifaceted role in alleviating hunger and poverty, and enhancing social structures and quality of life in sub-Saharan Africa.”