Dr Frances Colles

Research Interests

Campylobacter is the principal organism I work on. It can cause severe gastrointestinal disease in humans, with the yearly number of reported UK cases being equivalent to one person becoming infected every two minutes.  Contaminated chicken meat has been identified as a major source of infection, and effective ‘on-farm’ intervention strategies are urgently sought to support the biosecurity measures that are currently used. 

Work for my DPhil demonstrated that, contrary to popular belief, wild birds are not a major source of contamination for broiler chicken flocks, with Campylobacter strains more likely to colonise particular bird species across disparate continents, than to cross host species barriers on the same farm.  Further study of a free-range broiler breeder flock revealed a sharp decline in shedding levels amongst mature birds, with C. jejuni and C. coli species differing in colonisation attributes. Detailed information such as this is essential if we are to gain understanding as to how Campylobacter colonisation levels in commercial flocks may be controlled.

Current research forms part of a multidisciplinary approach using state of the art technology to formally test links between chicken flock behaviour, welfare and Campylobacter prevalence, and to explore good husbandry as a potential measure to reduce colonisation of chicken flocks by Campylobacter, and ultimately to reduce the incidence of human disease.

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