Professor Paul Wigley and Dr Joanna Fothergill
I graduated from the University of Bristol with a degree in Veterinary Science in July 2014. I moved to Colombia to practice as a veterinary surgeon. I worked in small animal practice in Tunja and Bogotá. I also worked as an independent herd health consultant for dairy farmers around Ubaté and Chiquinquirá. I began a 4-year PhD at the University of Liverpool in October 2016.
My research interests focus on how the developing microbiome stimulates early mucosal immunity in the gut to explore for increasing the resistance of livestock to enteric disease.
Understanding the gut microbiome and its contribution to health is a major current research area in both human and animal health. Chickens, which are the most numerous of all livestock in the UK, have particular problems with gut health and infection of enteric pathogens such as Salmonella and Campylobacter that affect both the health of the animal and may also be transmitted via food to humans. Previously antimicrobials were used to promote growth and help reduce enteric infections but their use was banned in the EU in 2006 and there are calls for the US and other countries to follow suit. Feed additives including probiotic bacteria are used extensively as an alternative to antimicrobial drugs but their use is largely empirical and we little idea how they impact on the microbiome and subsequently on the health of the animal.
My project aims to determine how the microbiome of the chicken develops and how it is influenced by probiotics, feed additives, genetics and infection. This underpinning knowledge will allow a more rational approach to developing probiotics and feed additives that act to improve animal health and productivity whilst reducing the use of antimicrobials and reducing the risk of foodborne infection.
The PhD also involves a 12-month industrial placement with DuPont Animal Nutrition in Marlborough.