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Solving an avian scourge could also provide benefits to human health
Date:3/18/2008

The old adage a bird in hand is worth two in the bush may very well apply to a new vaccine project underway in the lab of ASU School of Life Sciences Professor Roy Curtiss, director of the Center for Infectious Diseases and Vaccinology at the Biodesign Institute.

There, associate research scientist Melha Mellata is leading a USDA funded project to identify targets to develop a vaccine against a leading poultry disease, called avian pathogenic E. coli (APEC).

Mellata is an expert on understanding the genetic signposts of how certain kinds of E. coli turn deadly. We have to understand how bacteria cause disease so that we can know the best way to fight them, said Mellata.

According to the USDA, the two most common types of poultry infections are from the bacteria E. coli and Salmonella. Unlike in people, Salmonella is completely harmless to chickens.

But by attempting to solve the poultry scourge of APEC, Mellata and Curtiss are hopeful their bird in hand project could ultimately provide a boost to protecting people against Salmonella, the leading cause of food-borne illness.

What if you could get one vaccine to fight against a group of bacteria? said Mellata. We came up with a project where we would protect chickens, not only from E. coli infection but also Salmonella, and in doing so, improve human health.

The U.S. has the leading poultry industry in the world, with an annual value of more than $50 billion and a poultry production forecast to continue its upward trend. E. coli infections are a big threat for the industry. The economic losses due to E. coli infections in broiler chickens were estimated to be more than $80 million in 2002.

Now, there is also considerable concern in the scientific community that APEC strains could become an emergent food pathogen. The poultry products are also a suspected source of a suite of infections called ExPEC (extra-intestinal pathogenic E. coli, which includ
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Contact: Joe Caspermeyer
joseph.caspermeyer@asu.edu
480-727-0369
Arizona State University
Source:Eurekalert

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