NC1180: Control of Endemic, Emerging and Re-emerging Poultry Respiratory Diseases in the United States

(Multistate Research Project)

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THE NEED AS INDICATED BY STAKEHOLDERS. The United States is the world's largest poultry producer and the second-largest egg producer and exporter of poultry meat. The poultry industry is a highly integrated growth industry and is a major contributor to animal agriculture. The combined value of production from broilers, eggs, turkeys, and the value of sales from chickens in 2012 was $38.1 billion, up 8 percent from $35.3 billion in 2011 and up 48 percent from the $25.8 billion in 2006 (USDA, ERS data, 2012). Based on survey conducted by National Chicken Council (2012), Americans consume more chicken than anyone else in the world  83.6 pounds per capita  the number one animal protein consumed in the United States. Consumers rate chickens value very highly and chicken consumption per capita has increased nearly every year since the mid 1960s, while red meat consumption has steadily declined.

U.S. egg operations produce over 90 billion eggs annually. Over 75% of egg production is for human consumption (the table-egg market). The remainder of production is for the hatching market. These eggs are hatched to provide replacement birds for the egg-laying flocks and to produce broiler chicks for grow-out operations. U.S. per capita consumption of eggs and egg products is around 250 eggs per person. Chicken eggs are an important source of high quality protein and other nutrients in the diet.

The United States has the largest broiler chicken industry in the world, and over 17 percent of production is exported to other countries in 2011. In 2011, approximately 9 billion broiler chickens weighing 50 billion pounds live-weight were produced. The U.S. turkey industry produces over one-quarter of a billion birds annually, with the live weight of each bird averaging over 25 pounds. The U.S. is by far the world's largest turkey producer, followed by the European Union. Even though exports are a major component of U.S. turkey use, the United States consumes more turkey per capita than any other country.

Protection of poultry by effective control and prevention of diseases is critical in order to maintain wholesome poultry and poultry product markets. Such efforts will also make a significant contribution towards national food security.

IMPORTANCE OF THE WORK, AND WHAT THE CONSEQUENCES ARE IF IT IS NOT DONE. Respiratory diseases continue to be a major concern to producers. Consequently, losses induced by respiratory diseases are of major economic impact on the producer, the local and U.S. economies. Various pathogens may initiate respiratory disease in poultry including a variety of viruses, bacteria, and fungi. Many endemic respiratory infectious diseases in the U.S. continue to decrease the profitability of commercial poultry production. Losses are realized from mortality and morbidity via condemnation at processing and poor performance (increased feed conversion and medication costs, decreased growth). In addition, endemic, emerging and re-emerging respiratory diseases add to the economic loss to the poultry industry. Based on the USAHA report (2012), the following pathogens continue to be a problem in the industry: variant infectious bronchitis (IB), infectious laryngotracheitis (ILT), infectious bursal disease (IBD), aspergillosis, Newcastle disease (ND), infectious coryza, avian influenza (AI), swine influenza, and infections caused by E. coli, avian mycoplasmas, Ornithobacterium rhinotracheale (ORT), P. multocida, and avian metapneumovirus. Environmental factors may augment these pathogens to produce the clinically observed signs and lesions. Thus, management of poultry is also a critical factor in controlling respiratory disease.

The export market comprises large portion of the U.S. poultry meat and egg production. Export markets are subject to immediate restrictions when poultry respiratory diseases such as highly pathogenic AI (HPAI) or exotic Newcastle disease (END) are diagnosed and reported in commercial flocks. Although HPAI and END have not been reported in the U.S. since our last project was initiated, outbreaks continue to occur around the world and in countries bordering the U.S. Considering the potential impact of possible outbreaks, surveillance and rapid detection are critical. For example, a major epidemic of END occurred in California from September 2002-May 2003. Eradication of that END cost more than $162 million, a value that does not include lost export trade at the time.

In December 2008, a virulent strain of IBDV termed very virulent IBDV (vvIBDV), although prevalent in Asia, Africa, and South America, was identified for the first time in the U.S. in a commercial flock in northern California. Since then, several other California backyard and commercial flocks have been affected by the same vvIBDV strain and other unique (previously undiscovered) strains of IBDV of varying pathogenicity. IBDV, while not a respiratory pathogen, has demonstrated the ability to increase the severity of several poultry respiratory diseases and reduce the efficacy of vaccines via its immunosuppressive effects. While IBDV is endemic in the U.S., vvIBDV and other unique newly identified IBDV strains pose a new and more difficult management threat to poultry health.

The agrobioterrorism threat to the U.S. food supply is a reality after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. HPAI and END viruses are classified as agrobioterrorism agents. Considering the environmental stability, virulence and transmissibility of the virus among poultry flock, vvIBDV might also be an attractive target for bioterrorist. Our project will develop strategies for rapid diagnosis and control of these and other diseases.

Considering the challenges outlined above, it is essential that the proposed studies proceed to help protect the nation's food supply and the economic well-being of farmers and the poultry industry.
THE TECHNICAL FEASIBILITY OF THE RESEARCH. The technical challenges posed by the goal of improved respiratory disease control are significant but feasible. Participants in the project have experience and training to undertake the work and complete the objectives. In addition, physical facilities, equipment, and other resources are committed by member institutions to guarantee the success of the proposed activities.

THE ADVANTAGES FOR DOING THE WORK AS A MULTISTATE EFFORT. Control of respiratory infectious diseases lends itself to collaborative multistate research. The diseases are endemic in many poultry producing states. Furthermore the challenges posed by the number of different disease etiologies and their complexities require a multistate effort.

Current NC1180 project served as a venue for gathering, discussing, and providing critical information on disease status at the state and national level which helped to develop research and prevention strategies for the researchers, industry and state and federal government officials. The understanding of respiratory diseases of poultry has been advanced considerably through the current project. Of notable mention are the advances made in rapid diagnostics for all major respiratory pathogens which include; practical field-based tests to state of the art array techniques to differentiate genotypes or serotypes. DNA and recombinant vector based vaccine technologies have also moved forward at a dramatic pace and hold much promise for improved control of respiratory diseases. Studies with newly recognized diseases such as vvIBDV and re-emerging diseases such as variant IB, and endemic infections such as low path AIV in wild birds, have led to better understanding of the disease, development of diagnostic tools, and development of surveillance and vaccine strategies to control the disease. The combination of these and other findings have led to very productive years of the current project as indicated by the number of papers published or in press including joint publications from participating institutions (Please refer to the Composite Annual Reports attached to the proposal).

WHAT THE LIKELY IMPACTS WILL BE FROM SUCCESSFULLY COMPLETING THE WORK. The overall impact of a successful outcome will be improved diagnosis and control of respiratory diseases that will benefit the poultry industry. Impact of the research will be derived from identification of disease agent reservoirs such as wild birds, factors involved in agent transmission to poultry, the development and delivery of gene and protein based diagnostics, determination of infection status, rapid strain identification, evaluation and development of vaccines, and the design and implementation of eradication protocols for selected agents. The overall outcome of the project is to produce findings that enable the poultry industry to remain competitive and profitable.
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