Helping Chickens Cross the Road to an Alternative to Antibiotics
Raising healthy chickens is vital to ensure human health. Baby chicks on poultry farms often get sick from bacterial infections during the first week of hatching, resulting in the death of many chicks and severe economic losses for producers. The poultry industry previously used antibiotics to prevent infections, but these practices raised public health concerns including the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. In response, the poultry industry is responsibly withdrawing from antibiotic use to ensure public health and safety and, actively searching for safe and effective alternatives to ensure poultry health.
In my research, I used a nebulizing chamber to deliver a synthetic DNA as an aerosol directly to the lungs of newly-hatched chicks. This process stimulated the chicks’ front line defense mechanisms — their “innate immune system” — and significantly protected them against a deadly dose of E.coli. The treatment defended the chicks during their first week of life: protection was initiated within six hours of inhaling the synthetic DNA and lasted five days. It helped to improve the chicks’ clinical condition while clearing bacteria rapidly without any adverse effects on growth. Next, we collaborated with engineers and developed a large-scale poultry nebulizer so we could apply our findings in an industry setting.
We performed field trials in two Western Canadian commercial poultry hatcheries, and our experience proved that this is a practical and feasible technique. What’s exciting is that our efforts will enhance poultry health and welfare and protect public health by minimizing the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the environment.
This summary is in reference to:
Intrapulmonary Delivery of CpG-ODN Microdroplets Provides Protection Against Escherichia coli Septicemia in Neonatal Broiler Chickens.
Avian Diseases Dec 2017, Vol. 61, Issue 4 (Dec 2017), pg(s) 503-511.
Kalhari Bandara Goonewardene, Shelly Popowich, Thushari Gunawardana, Ashish Gupta, Shanika Kurukulasuriya, Ruwani Karunarathna, Betty Chow-Lockerbie, Khawaja Ashfaque Ahmed, Suresh K. Tikoo, Marianna Foldvari, Philip Willson and Susantha Gomis.
Funding for this research was proivded by Western Economic Diversification Canada (WEDC), Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), Chicken Farmers of Saskatchewan, Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency (ALMA) and Canadian Poultry Research Council (CPRC).
Kalhari Bandara Goonewardene
Kalhari was born on November 1, 1985, in Colombo, Sri Lanka to Mrs. Pushpalatha Perera (primary school teacher) and Dr. J.M.W. Jayasundara Bandara (former Director General of Health). Her younger brother Seninda Bandara is a marketing expert. She’s married to Rajika Goonewardene (mechanical engineer). Kalhari completed her school education in Presidents College, Kotte (1991-1995) and Visakha Vidyalaya, Colombo (1995-2004). In August 2005, she entered the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Science at University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka and graduated with a Bachelor of Veterinary Science (BVSc) degree in May, 2010.
Then she served as a temporary lecturer at the University of Peradeniya for a year in the Departments of Veterinary Public Health and Pharmacology and Veterinary Basic Sciences. Meanwhile, she completed internship trainings in Veterinary Clinical Medicine and Surgery (Pet Vet clinic, Colombo) and Poultry Disease Investigation and Diagnostic Pathology (Ceylon Grain Elevators PLC, Colombo, Sri Lanka). In May 2012, she commenced a master’s degree under the supervision of Dr. Susantha Gomis at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Saskatchewan, Canada and transferred to a PhD program in January 2014. Currently she’s concluding her PhD thesis and seeking post-doctoral training opportunities in University of Calgary.
What drew you to your current research field?
My ambition even before entering university was to do a PhD and be a university lecturer/ professor one day. As a veterinary student, I was interested in veterinary public health, food animal health and immunology. I was looking for research opportunities that could cover all my areas of interest. Luckily, a friend suggested writing to Dr. Gomis as he was doing a lot of interesting work on poultry diseases and vaccine development. When I expressed my research interest in the above areas, he sent me few publications on the research field that I’m currently working on. Although I didn’t understand the subject matter in detail at that stage, I was inspired. It was like a match made in heaven. The perfect alignment of my interests with Dr. Gomis’s research ideas drew me to this current research field.
Who most inspired and/or influenced your career?
My husband Rajika. If not for the sacrifices he made in his career path and personal life, I wouldn’t have reached these milestones in my career today. He constantly encouraged me and supported me to fulfill my dreams. I owe him for that. My supervisor Dr. Susantha Gomis’s visionary thinking took me to many heights and introduced our work to a huge scientific audience in poultry health. My research group members worked hand in hand with me every day so they inspired and influenced me all these years. This award belongs to all of them. Dr. Gomis’s wife Anoma gave me a valuable advice on the first day I got to Saskatoon which influenced my persistence as a graduate student. She said no matter what, never quit your education or career as that is something you earned through hard work. My school teachers, university professors and the veterinarians I met inspired me to be in research and teaching. My brother, extended family, in-laws and friends have been such a strength to me. Last but not the least, my loving parents Jayasundara and Pushpa inspired me since childhood by giving me freedom and the best advices to make life choices. They always had faith in me and I believe I have made them proud today.
What one thing would you like the public to remember or understand about your research?
Our efforts in developing a safer and effective alternative to antibiotics will enhance poultry health and welfare while protecting public health by minimizing the emergence of antibiotic resistant bacteria in the environment.
If you had one piece of advice for someone who wants to pursue research in your field, what would it be?
Remember the “3Ps in research: Passion, Persistence and Perseverance” as a researcher. This field is very rewarding as we’re working towards a bigger goal in one health so, be proud of the contribution you will be doing for the benefit of animals, humans and the environment.