Study of the Respiratory Virome of Backyard Poultry and Educating Owners About Respiratory Pathogens
PI: Sunil Kumar Mor (Univ. Minnesota)
Scope of this study:
Small flock owners (SFOs), including backyard flock owners, need to learn about common pathogens that may affect their birds and how to control them. After the HPAI (highly pathogenic avian influenza) outbreaks in 2015, we at the Minnesota Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (MVDL) have seen an increase in number of cases submitted and number of phone calls received from backyard poultry owners; they are nervous and believe that any sign of respiratory problem in their flocks is due to HPAI although in a large majority of such cases we detected other respiratory pathogens e.g., infectious laryngotracheitis virus (ILTV), infectious bronchitis virus (IBV), Newcastle disease virus (NDV), and Mycoplasma gallisepticum (MG), either alone or as mixed infection. A comparison of respiratory viromes of clinically affected and normal chickens will help delineate the viral load in their upper respiratory tracts and this information will help formulate strategies to control these infections. This information can then be communicated to the flock owners along with advice on vaccine usage, if applicable. With this background, we hypothesize that respiratory virome of backyard chickens contains signatures of common and novel pathogens and that the lack of knowledge on these pathogens leads to a panic situation among SFOs. To fulfil the objective of Poultry Respiratory Disease-Coordinated Agricultural Project (PRD-CAP), we plan to direct extension efforts towards two audiences: SFOs and veterinarians (both mixed practice and companion animal veterinarians) who often are not familiar with the prevalence and control of poultry diseases. Educational materials will be developed to assist this audience in recognizing respiratory infections, how to use the veterinary diagnostic laboratory effectively, and how to prevent the introduction of respiratory diseases in poultry flocks (including biosecurity and vaccination programs). Practicing veterinarians will receive continuing education on backyard poultry and health. We will use a variety of tools for this purpose (eXtension webinars, workshops, short videos, disease recognition app, brochures, and fact sheets). We plan to organize two workshops in Minnesota; one at the Mid-Central Research and Outreach Center (MCROC) in Willmar and the other in Saint Cloud or Northfield. A User Manual will be prepared containing lectures about respiratory diseases with images of clinical signs, control and prevention of such diseases. This manual will be distributed to all participants and will also be made available at University of Minnesota Extension website as well as at the MVDL website. In the second objective, we will use NextGen sequencing to characterize respiratory viruses in backyard poultry, which might also affect commercial poultry and may have zoonotic potential. The study will enhance outreach efforts to control and prevent respiratory diseases in backyard poultry, which may also benefit commercial flocks and help reduce zoonoses.