E. coli within and among host dynamics in poultry

In mammals, Escherichia coli is competitively dominant and it limits the establishment and persistence of other members of the family Enterobacteriaceae. In a mammal host, typically one to three E. coli strains can be detected, and these strains may persist for months or years in an individual host. Birds, however, appear to be a very permissive host for bacteria belonging to the Enterobacteriaceae. There also is little evidence that any enteric species is competitively dominant in birds.

We have a very poor understanding of the within host dynamics of E. coli in birds. We do not know how many strains can typically be detected at one point in time, nor do we know how long a strain typically persists within a host. Neither, do we understand the extent that strains are shared among individual hosts in the same population. Understanding the dynamics of E. coli in bird populations, especially poultry, is important, because many researchers believe that poultry represent a ‘breeding ground’ for E. coli able to cause extra-intestinal infection in humans.

This project with investigate the within and among host dynamics and diversity of E. coli in a chicken flock. The research will provide the student with experience in a variety of basic microbiological techniques and familiarity with a variety of molecular techniques including primer design and PCR based DNA fingerprinting methods. The student will also gain familiarity with a variety of population genetic analysis methods. No previous experience with micro-organisms is required. This project is suitable for a July start.