2014-15 Rapid Ag: Role of the Bacterial Microbiome in Turkey Production

December 5, 2014

Principal Leader

Timothy Johnson

Department

Veterinary Biomedical Sciences

Funding Awarded

2014 Fiscal Year: $49,447

2015 Fiscal Year: $45,323

The Problem

A condition known to commercial turkey producers in Minnesota as “Light Turkey Syndrome” or “LTS” has plagued the industry for several years. LTS refers to observations by Minnesota turkey producers that regional flocks are consistently below growth potential, and often display great bird-to-bird variability within a flock. LTS is a widespread, multimillion-dollar problem affecting commercial turkey growers in Minnesota and research is needed determine causes - especially any bacterial issues.

Background

A condition known to commercial turkey producers in Minnesota as “Light Turkey Syndrome” or “LTS” has plagued the industry for several years. LTS refers to observations by Minnesota turkey producers that regional flocks are consistently below growth potential, and often display great bird-to-bird variability within a flock. Poults from the same supplier perform significantly better in farms outside of MN. This condition apparently occurs in the absence of detectable disease issues. Based on experimental data thus far, LTS is a multifactorial issue that does not likely involve a single pathogen. While it does not appear to cause outright increases in mortality, the economic impacts are huge. It is estimated by the MN turkey industry that annual losses in revenue due to LTS exceed $24.7 million and are significantly reducing the ability of MN turkey growers to be competitive in the national and international markets (personal communications with MTGA and Rick Huisinga, Executive VP of WPC). Study of LTS in turkeys has been hampered by the lack of a refined case definition.

Preliminary evidence is presented below demonstrating a bacterial role in LTS. Of the dominant species within the turkey ileum, we have identified several bacteria associated with improved weights in turkeys, including a novel bacterium referred to as Candidatus Arthromitus (referred to throughout as CA) and several Lactobacillus species. Therefore, we hypothesize that the balance between CA and known turkey Lactobacillus species play a critical role in turkey GI development, and is lacking in poor performing

Objectives

  1. Isolate and characterize Candidatus Arthromitus from commercial turkeys. 
  2. Develop and implement rapid diagnostic tools to assess commercial turkey gut microbiome. 
  3. Determine the role of dominant bacterial species in the ileum in turkey gut development and daily weight gain.