Genetic variation for worm burdens in laying hens naturally infected with gastro-intestinal nematodes

Br Poult Sci. 2015;56(1):15-21. doi: 10.1080/00071668.2014.981147. Epub 2015 Jan 6.


1. Genetic parameters were determined for the worm burden of the most common gastro-intestinal nematodes in two chicken genotypes after being exposed to free-range farming conditions for a laying period. 2. Seventeen-week-old hens of 2 brown genotypes, Lohmann Brown (LB) plus (n = 230) and LB classic (n = 230), were reared for a laying period and subjected to post-mortem parasitological examinations at 79 weeks (LB plus) or 88 weeks (LB classic) of age. 3. There was no significant difference in faecal egg counts between the genotypes. Almost all hens (>99%) were infected with at least one nematode species. Species-specific nematode prevalence ranged from 85.8% to 99.1% between the two genotypes. Heterakis gallinarum was the most prevalent nematode (98.5%), followed by Ascaridia galli (96.2%) and Capillaria spp. (86.1%). Capillaria spp. were composed of C. obsignata (79%), C. caudinflata (16%) and C. bursata (5%). 4. All phenotypic and genetic correlations among worm counts of different parasite species were positive in combined genotypes (rP ranged from 0.05 to 0.30 and rG ranged from 0.29 to 0.88). A strong genetic correlation (rG = 0.88 ± 0.34) between counts of A. galli and H. gallinarum was quantified. Heritability for total worm burden for LB plus and LB classic, respectively, were 0.55 ± 0.18 and 0.55 ± 0.34. Across both genotypes, the heritability of total worm burden was 0.56 ± 0.16. 5. In conclusion, there is a high variation attributable to genetic background of chickens in their responses to naturally acquired nematode infections. The high positive genetic correlation between counts of closely related worm species (e.g. A. galli and H. gallinarum) may indicate existence of similar genetically determined mechanism(s) in chickens for controlling these nematodes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animal Husbandry
  • Animals
  • Chickens
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / epidemiology
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / genetics
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / parasitology
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / veterinary*
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Genotype*
  • Germany / epidemiology
  • Housing, Animal
  • Nematode Infections / epidemiology
  • Nematode Infections / genetics
  • Nematode Infections / parasitology
  • Nematode Infections / veterinary*
  • Poultry Diseases / epidemiology
  • Poultry Diseases / genetics*
  • Poultry Diseases / parasitology
  • Prevalence