Immunocompetence and viability under commercial conditions of broiler groups differing in growth rate and in antibody response to Escherichia coli vaccine

R. Yunis, A. Ben-David, E. D. Heller, A. Cahaner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


Mortality and morbidity due to infectious diseases are an increasing source of losses to the broiler industry. Breeding chickens for improved disease resistance may reduce these losses. A study was designed to evaluate the contribution of selection for immune response to viability of broilers under farm conditions. The experimental populations consisted of six groups: two lines divergently selected for high (HH) or low (LL) antibody (Ab) response to Escherichia coli vaccination; commercial broilers (CC); and the HH x CC, LL x CC, and HH x LL crosses. Chicks were tested under standard vaccination program and management on commercial farms in two years (1997 and 1998). Mortality was recorded in the whole groups, each consisting of several hundred or thousand of chicks, whereas BW and Ab to natural exposure to E. coli and to vaccination with Newcastle disease virus (NDV) were determined in samples of 50 to 120 chicks/group per yr. Groups were clustered into three levels of BW: CC representing contemporary fast-growing broilers; HH, LL, and HL representing broilers 10 yr earlier; and HC and LC with intermediate BW. The HH and LL groups exhibited the highest and lowest E. coli Ab titers, respectively. Mean Ab of the CC group equaled the average of the selected lines, and all crosses exhibited mid-parent Ab titers, indicating additive genetic control. Group means for Ab to NDV were highly correlated with those of E. coli, suggesting a common genetic control for the immune response to these two antigens. In both years, the highest mortality was found in the fast-growing group (CC), and the lowest mortality was in the slow-growing HH, LL, and HL groups. In the crosses, despite their similar mean BW, mortality was one-third higher among LC vs. HC birds. These results suggest that Ab response and potential growth rate interact in their effect on mortality due to infectious diseases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)810-816
Number of pages7
JournalPoultry Science
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Broiler
  • Escherichia coli
  • Growth rate
  • Immune response
  • Mortality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology


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