The poultry industry generates $441 billion for the US economy and provides 1.7 million American jobs. Yet even an industry this prodigious can be stopped in its tracks. The 2015 avian flu outbreak required the slaughter of 50 million chickens and turkeys.
Chang-Won Lee, PhD, and his colleagues worry about more than the avian flu. They focus expansively on more than a single respiratory disease. While scientists may be able to generate vaccines to stop the spread of individual pathogens, many countries do not import products from vaccinated poultry.
Dr. Lee leads a collaboration of scientists in 11 institutions to determine all of the microbes in the poultry respiratory system. In itemizing what can be found in a chicken’s respiratory tract and determining which components are hazardous, Dr. Lee and his team can then analyze how other factors, including environmental conditions like humidity and air quality, can impact the levels of these pathogens.
When an outbreak occurs, there is support from everywhere for new research. However, the work needs to be done on an on-going basis in preparation for the next outbreak.
– Dr. Chang-Won Lee
The collaboration’s end result would provide both large scale farmers and backyard poultry owners with management systems that limit the spread of diseases without solely relying on antibiotics, vaccines, or other costly interventions. Dr. Lee’s grant also funds the outreach to ensure his findings reach poultry farmers so that they can raise healthier flocks with stronger immune systems—the ultimate antidote to defeating the next virulent flu outbreak that comes along.