Scientists at the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh, England are hoping their research can eliminate one of the most common causes of food borne illness, Campylobacter.
Campylobacter is usually passed to humans via poultry meat which has not been cooked or handled properly. It can cause diarrhea, cramping, abdominal pain, and fever within two to five days after exposure.
In the United States the bacteria is responsible for more than 2.4 million cases of foodborne illnesses every year.
While proper hygiene and thorough cooking kills the bug, the English researches are looking to eliminate the bacteria from the food chain by studying poultry DNA.
The bacteria is able to live in large quantities in the guts of chickens, however, some breeds are naturally resistant to the colonization of the bacteria.
The Roslin Institute will spend the next three years studying these breeds of chickens mapping the genes and gene mutations responsible for increased resistance to colonization of Campylobacter in chicken guts
"We already know from our previous work with non-commercial birds that some chickens are able to reduce the levels of bacterium in their guts by 10-000 fold relative to other breeds. We have already identified four regions of the genome that contribute to this resistance. This new research programme should allow us to locate the actual genes responsible for this increased resistance,” said Roslin Professor Peter Kaiser. "Our work offers the potential to develop a quick and targeted approach to breeding poultry that are more resistant to Campylobacter colonisation and so prevent it from entering the food chain."