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What lives inside a chicken? HD


The chicken metagenome project is about looking
at the most abundant bird and food animal in the world and important model organism
and charting this unknown terrority what lives inside its gut. And we know that’s it’s important
to the health of the organism of the chicken, its growth and so forth but we really know
very little about it and we now have the technology to do a definitive job here and actually look
into great detail at what lives there. Chicken is the most abundant bird on the plant,
the most abundant food animal that humans use. In a sense the health and welfare of
the nation depend on the chicken, the chicken itself, we eat eggs. People even ate chicken
soup on the far side of the moon, Apollo astronauts, that’s what they ate. It gives you an idea
of how important it is but the irony is that we know more about the far side of the moon
than we know about what lives inside the chicken gut. There are hundreds of different bacteria
species that live in there. Where we’ve, in our initial survey, we have
chosen to focus on is part of the chicken gut call the caecum, and there are two caeca
in each chicken, and these are like out pocketing’s of the gastrointestinal track. Food passes
into these and then sits there for very long periods of time before it is then voided out
of the chicken and we think this is one of the key places where a lot of interesting
things happen nutrients absorption, processing and so forth. And it’s the place in the gastrointestinal
track where the microbial load is the highest this is where the larger number and most diverse
population of bacterial live. Why we are interested in that is that this
chicken gut community, this microbial plays an important role in the health and disease
of this resident host. It plays an important role in priming the development of the gastrointestinal
track, particularly the immune system associated with the gastrointestinal track. It plays
an important role in the recovery of nutrients in food and it’s clear that the chickens are
fed on this very complex carbohydrate diet and much of what’s recovered from the diet
depends on those microorganisms. What we hope is that by mining this metagenome we will
find many more such enzymes that might be present in that metagenome in small amounts
and in a particular niche, but if actually produced industrially might have important
biotechnology roles, might have important roles as food supplements for the chicken
to actually improve their health and growth rate.
We are interested in the food safety issue. We are looking at birds that have Campylobacter
and birds who don’t have Campylobacter. We hope to get clues about how Campylobacter
affects the chicken microbial community, how we might be able to better prevent Campylobacter
colonisation. There already are industrial products where you feed chickens a mixture
of different microbes to keep out Campylobacter but with better understanding of how these
communities work we may even be able to improve on those and put them on a more rational basis.
The other primary driver, apart from the scientific importance of this, is that we now have at
our disposal technologies that are absolutely amazing in terms of through put. So we can
approach this high put sequencing to get a much deeper picture, a definitive senses if
you like of what lives in the chicken gut, that far exceeds what we were capable of doing
even five years ago. So it’s the two things coming together that this well posed question
and this interesting kind of internal environment within the chicken gut that is unexplored
and the availability of new technologies to make that job attractable.

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