Science - March 3, 2005

Chickens inherit resistance

The disease resistance that chickens inherit can be improved by selecting for antibody response. Polish PhD graduate Maria Siwek thinks by including inborn immunity in breeding programmes it may be possible to reduce the use of antibiotics in poultry.

In her research at the Animal Breeding and Genetics group Siwek bred two chicken lines for seventeen generations, selected one for a high and the other for a low antibody response to red blood cells from sheep. Through crossing experiments and genetic analyses Siwek managed to show for these two lines and their descendants that resistance to disease is inherited. The level of inheritance is low, but does offer some room for selecting on general immunity against infectious poultry diseases such as Marek’s disease and coccidiosis. / GvM