Cute-Egg, improvement of eggshell cuticle quality to reduce vertical transmission of zoonotic and pathogenic organisms

The poultry industry relies on artificial incubation of eggs to prevent transfer of microorganisms from one generation to the next. The cuticle, a proteinaceous layer on the outer surface of the egg, forms the first line of defence to the penetration of bacteria derived from vertical transmission in the cloaca (where the egg and faeces exit the chicken) or by horizontal transmission from the environment e.g. contact with collecting belts or egg handling equipment.

The ongoing CUTE EGG project (a Link Project Funded by BBSRC) relies on collaboration between Prof. Maureen Bain, Edinburgh University (Roslin Institute and School of Chemistry) and two major poultry breeding companies.

The project focuses on the physiochemical, physiological and genetic parameters that characterise the cuticle as a quality trait and will deliver improved understanding of the role of the cuticle and the tools to measure it to allow genetic selection for improved cuticle coverage in both meat type and egg laying flocks.

Successful interactions with Industry have been built from previous EU research grants; these led to the direct involvement of two world leading primary breeding companies (Aviagen and Lohmann Tierzucht) in this project, facilitating direct access to key resources such as pedigree information whilst ensuring the knowledge generated by the project is directly transferable to a major industry.

First published: 16 December 2014