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Rapid test for deadly poultry disease

Rapid test for deadly poultry disease. Zoetis

A rapid test for Marek’s disease in chickens has been developed by researchers at The Pirbright Institute in collaboration with Fort Dodge Animal Health, now part of Zoetis and one of the world’s largest poultry vaccine manufacturers. The test, developed with funding from a BBSRC ‘stand-alone’ LINK grant, allows farmers to work out how much of the disease is present in their flocks and provides information about how well the vaccine is working.

Marek’s disease is a highly contagious viral illness estimated to cost the worldwide poultry industry up to £1.4Bn a year. Vaccination is the only way to control the disease, but over time the virus becomes resistant to the vaccine so there is a continual need for new vaccines.

Data breakout

50% Minimum cash or ‘in kind’ contribution required from industrial partner towards a ‘stand-alone’ LINK project
10-50% Proportion of unvaccinated animals that can be affected by Marek’s disease. Mortality can reach 100% in affected animals
9,800 Number of Zoetis employees worldwide at the beginning of 2014

The test allows farmers to perform an environmental quality check of Marek’s disease contamination on their poultry farm: if a farmer finds high levels of the virus in their poultry house, they know hygiene standards need to be improved. This is important because a single infected bird sheds millions of viruses into the environment which can survive for 10-15 years. By offering this test for free to customers who bought their Marek’s disease vaccine, Fort Dodge Animal Health became the biggest seller of the vaccine worldwide.

"This collaboration has brought to our company a great innovative tool to better understand Marek’s disease, to spread this expertise across the poultry industry, and ultimately to support our customers in improving the control of this major poultry disease," says Dr Herve Le Galludec from Zoetis.

BBSRC’s ‘stand-alone’ LINK scheme supports collaborative research between at least one company and one academic partner. It encourages scientists to consider and seek industrial partnership in their research grant proposals, allowing high-quality science to be plugged directly into UK industry and generating economic and societal benefits.

Read the full impact evidence report:

A rapid test for poultry disease (PDF 173KB)

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