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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Athens, Georgia » U.S. National Poultry Research Center » Egg and Poultry Production Safety Research Unit » Research » Research Project #438928

Research Project: Reduction of Foodborne Pathogens and Antimicrobial Resistance in Poultry Production Environments

Location: Egg and Poultry Production Safety Research Unit

Project Number: 6040-32000-012-000-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Jan 19, 2021
End Date: Jan 18, 2026

1. Identify factors within the hatchery and brooder phase that induce serotype diversity and homologous recombination within Salmonella enterica subspecies I for the purpose of facilitating reduction of colonization of chicks through environmental remediation. 1.A. Investigate Salmonella ecology within commercial hatchery environments through the use of bio-mapping. 1.B. Identify conditions that facilitate either Homologous Recombination (HR) and/or Clonal Expansion (CX) by Salmonella enterica within the hatchery environment. 1.C. Develop intervention strategies for impeding emergence of new serotypes of Salmonella enterica in the hatchery and brooder environments. 2. Identification, characterization, and application of probiotic commensal microbes as an alternative to antibiotics to reduce Salmonella prevalence within commercial poultry houses. 2.A. Identification of non-pathogenic bacterial species that are modulated upon Salmonella Heidelberg infection. 2.B. Evaluate and characterize potential non-pathogenic strains to be included in the proLitterbiotic (pLb) culture collection. 2.C. Evaluate efficacy of proLitterbiotic (pLb) under live production scenarios. 3. Identify environmental and management drivers of foodborne pathogen ecology under pastured poultry rearing systems. 3.A. Environmental and microbiological characterization of pastured poultry farms to identify drivers of foodborne pathogen ecology. 3.B. Predict Salmonella prevalence during live production within pastured poultry flocks. 3.C. Evaluate the effectiveness of implementing probiotic/all-natural products within the diet of very young chicks (<1 week of age) on poultry gut health and product safety. 4. Determine pre-harvest environmental and management factors that drive the persistence of zoonotic bacterial pathogens within commercial-scale poultry production houses. 4.A. Assess the effect of pre-harvest environmental conditions and management practices on the identification, prevalence, and characterization of pathogens during live production. 4.B. Develop analytical models to predict the environmental drivers of pathogen prevalence and persistence within live poultry production systems to improve stakeholder pre-harvest data utilization and implementation.

Our goal is to reduce pathogenic and antibiotic resistant Salmonella in eggs and poultry products entering the processing/post-harvest environment by generating research that identifies the drivers of Salmonella ecology in pre-harvest environments. This investigation will begin at the nexus of commercial poultry management (hatchery) and extend onto the farms where the birds are reared to processing weight, and we will investigate the variables that genotypically and phenotypically affect the presence of Salmonella pre-harvest. A better understanding of Salmonella ecology and diversity through the pre-harvest phase of poultry production will reduce Salmonella loads entering the processing environment and result in a safer product for the consumer. We will test alternative hypotheses about which pre-harvest environmental factors and management practices influence genomic (clonality, diversity) and phenomic (growth potential, antibiotic resistance) attributes of Salmonella. We will develop and test a “proLitterbiotic” culture to evaluate its efficiency to reduce the development of multidrug resistant Salmonella in live broiler chickens. Live production studies will use pastured poultry farms as a model for poultry management as we have access to working and experimental pastured poultry farms for more controlled research experiments. Expected outcomes for regulatory agencies, the conventional and pastured poultry industries and the consumer include: i) data-supported approaches for identifying risks associated with contamination of poultry entering the processing/post-harvest environments; ii) tools that facilitate characterization of Salmonella serovars and how mixtures correlate to epidemiological trends; iii) new approaches to interventions intended to disrupt the ability of Salmonella to maintain an optimized genome; iv) correlation of genomic markers to antimicrobial resistances present between and within Salmonella serovars within pre-harvest environments; and v) identification of best pre-harvest practices and alternatives to antibiotics that will help producers reduce foodborne pathogens in consumer products. Levels of pathogens associated with poultry will be determined based on environmental conditions (e.g. dust, moisture, temperature, etc.) during commercial-scale poultry production. These isolated pathogens will then be further identified and characterized to evaluate microbial factors that influence their persistence with live production systems. Optimal environmental factors will be identified with the purpose of minimizing the presence and transmission of pathogens within commercial-scale poultry production houses. Microbiological, physiochemical, and management data from live poultry productions systems studies will be utilized as the variable data into appropriate multivariate predictive or machine learning/deep learning based algorithims. These models will be used to predict the variables that are the most influential drivers of zoonotic bacterial prevalence, persistence, and diversity within pre-harvest poultry live production and enable stakeholders to develop decision support tools to improve poultry food safety.