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Erysipelas - an emerging disease in animal friendly production systems for poultry and pigs; EryPoP

Published 2016-04-20

Erysipelas is a severe infectious disease caused by the bacterium Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae.

Following the change in housing for laying hens in Europe, erysipelas has become an emerging disease in several countries with outbreaks of high mortality in layer flocks in indoor aviaries and free-range/organic production. Erysipelas is a well-known acute disease in pigs and a suspected cause of arthritis and considerable economic losses in organic pigs. Erysipelas is difficult to prevent in the growing sector of animal friendly production systems for pigs and poultry. Moreover, E. rhusiopathiae- infections constitute an occupational hazard for humans (zoonosis).

Although a well-known disease, vital basic knowledge particularly on the infection in chickens, is lacking. Hence, in this project (EryPoP) the epidemiology, infection dynamics and immunity development in poultry and pigs will be addressed in the field and by experimental infections through a multi-disciplinary and transnational approach and cooperation.

The project has five main subtasks: to define transmission routes of E. rhusiopathiae by use of molecular epidemiology, to identify risk factors for outbreaks; to define the role of wild boars as potential reservoirs and sources of infection; to establish an assay to detect antibodies to E. rhusiopathiae in chickens; and to study the pathogenesis and immune responses to E. rhusiopathiae infections in chickens.

Samples and metadata for analysis will be collected from poultry, domestic pigs and wild boars in Sweden and Italy. Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae isolates will be analysed by Next-Generation-Sequencing technologies and bioinformatics. Using available sequences and those provided within the project and shotgun phage display technology, E. rhusiopathiae antigens will be identified and used for a novel ELISA test to detect chicken E. rhusiopathiae antibodies. This assay will be an invaluable tool within the project as well as a future diagnostic tool in the field.

A model for experimental infections in chickens will be established and used in studies of chicken immune responses to E. rhusiopathiae in naïve and vaccinated birds. These studies will provide information that will be vital in development of diagnostic methods and improvement of future prophylactic measures such as vaccines. Taken together, EryPoP will provide novel information that will enable scientifically based guidelines on prophylactic measures to prevent future erysipelas outbreaks and secure animal welfare in the growing animal friendly poultry and pig production.