Masters Student – Leena

Avian Pathogenic Escherichia coli – Leena Awawdeh

Traditionally, Escherichia coli has not been regarded in Australia as a primary pathogen of poultry. Typically, in the Australian context, E. coli is often regarded as a secondary agent that exploits opportunities provided by other disease agents and/or environmental stresses.

However, this traditional view is now being challenged. It is now recognised that some poultry-associated E. coli  have a range of genes potentially responsible for virulence and antimicrobial resistance. These isolates are often termed Avian Pathogenic E. coli (APEC). The other forms of E. coli that are normal flora of the gut are often termed Avian Faecal E. coli (AFEC).

Masters student Leena Awawdeh
Masters student Leena Awawdeh

A current Poultry CRC project seeks to determine the necessary baseline information to assess the role of APEC as a primary pathogen of meat chickens. Masters student Mrs Leena Awawdeh at the University of Queensland aims to:

  • produce the first in depth understanding of the range of virulence genes present in E. coli circulating in Australian broiler chicken flocks, and
  • (On the basis of this knowledge) assess the likelihood of these avian E. coli being linked to disease.

“I will be collecting isolates from a number of commercial broiler flocks, particularity in South-East Queensland” said Leena. “I’m attempting to collect samples from as many farms as possible to increase the accuracy of our profiling efforts.” Isolates can then be run through a series of (project developed) molecular tests for the presence of a range of previously recognised virulence genes associated with APEC.

Once knowledge relating to strain characteristics has been gathered, assessment can be made of the likelihood of these avian E. coli being linked to poultry disease. Virulence profiles, multilocus restriction typing (MLRT) results and antimicrobial resistance patterns of the Australian avian E. coli can then be compared against those profiles shown in overseas studies.

As Leena concludes “Currently in Australia, there is considerable doubt about the role of E. coli as a primary pathogen of meat chickens. My research aims to clarify the situation and provide a broad basis of knowledge to allow informed decisions on the role of APEC.”

Leena brings a wealth of knowledge to this project, holding a Bachelor of Veterinarian Science from Jordan University of Science and Technology along with a Postgraduate Diploma in Veterinary Public Health from New Zealand’s Massey University.


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