The Poultry Health System of the University of Delaware's Avian Biosciences Center

Preventing and controlling poultry diseases is one of the greatest challenges faced by the poultry industry. The Avian Biosciences Center Poultry Health System at the University of Delaware provides comprehensive diagnostic services integrated with applied and basic research to identify and control poultry diseases. The Center was established in 2006 to provide national leadership in research, education, and outreach programs that provide solutions to contemporary problems in the avian biosciences (for more information on the Avian Biosciences Center, visit the website.

Scientists working in the Poultry Health System have addressed and solved many disease problems. With an emphasis on disease prevention, fundamental research has led to the development and implementation of practical measures that have contributed to the profitability of poultry production. Success of the Poultry Health System has been significantly enhanced through ongoing collaborations with the poultry and biologics industries, other universities, regional and state Departments of Agriculture and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Financial support for the Poultry Health System comes from the State of Delaware, USDA, the poultry and allied industries, and granting organizations.

Surveillance

Surveillance and early detection of poultry diseases is critical to control. The Poultry Health System routinely tests for infectious laryngotracheitis, exotic and endemic (lentogenic) Newcastle disease, infectious bronchitis, and avian influenza. These tests include genomics-based as well as serological assays. Surveillance for avian influenza requires special efforts to meet USDA Animal and Plant Inspection Service (APHIS) programs for commercial and backyard poultry (National Poultry Improvement Plan) and wild birds (Wildlife Services).

Diagnostics

Demand for diagnostic services of the Poultry Health System is high. Nearly 10,000 specimens were submitted to the Lasher Laboratory in 2006. The majority of these submissions were from commercial broiler farms located on the Delmarva peninsula. Diagnostic specimensare also received from small flock owners in our region as well as poultry companies in other states.

Research

Surveillance and diagnostic activities are complemented by fundamental research. This ranges from the development of new experimentalvaccines to the characterization of avian influenza isolates from poultry and wild birds to the use of genomics for understanding molecular mechanisms by which disease agents cause poultry diseases.

Research on avian influenza outbreak responsiveness, including the development of a safe and effective method for emergency flock depopulation, has been heralded nationwide.

Many vaccines used by the poultry industry today were developed by researchers at the University of Delaware. Vaccines developed for Newcastle disease, infectious bronchitis, avian reovirus infections, Marek's disease, and infectious bursal disease continue to improve poultry health and save the poultry industry millions of dollars annually.

Genomics research and applications constitute a major area of emphasis. Genomics initiatives include the acquisition of expressed sequence tag, transcriptome, and microRNA databases for poultry and for poultry disease agents. Supported by bioinformatics, genomics research will improve our understanding of complex metabolic pathways, immune function, host-pathogen interactions, and disease resistance. Applications in high-throughput diagnostics, poultry breeding, and food safety are anticipated.

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