The One Health Poultry Hub

One Health Poultry Hub
The Hub Director: Prof. Fiona Tomley, Royal Veterinary College
Deputy Director: Prof. Dirk U. Pfeiffer
Project Member: Dr Anne Conan



Urbanisation, accompanied by rising incomes, continues to lead increased demands for animal protein. Poultry meat and eggs are the biggest global source of protein for humans and a major challenge is to achieve sustainable expansion whilst reducing risk to health from 1) epidemic avian influenza, 2) antimicrobial resistance, 3) foodborne zoonoses including campylobacter, salmonella and E. coli, 4) disruption of the natural chicken gut microbiome, leading to increased pathogen carriage.

The research directly addresses UN Sustainable Development Goals 1 (No Poverty), 2 (Zero hunger) and 3 (Good health and well-being), and contributes also to 5 (Gender Equality), 6 (Clean water and sanitation), 9 (Industry, innovation and infrastructure), 11 (Sustainable cities and communities), and 12 (Responsible consumption and production).

In South and SE Asia, poultry production is expanding rapidly and value chains are more diverse than in high-income settings. Intensification, in informal and organised poultry sectors, aims to produce cheap protein for families and for local, national and regional markets but it can also promote the generation of health hazards. High stocking densities, fast turnover, genetic homogeneity, complex transport and trading networks, live bird markets, poor biosecurity and inappropriate use of antimicrobials and vaccines all play roles in host-pathogen evolution and in selection of pathogen variants with increased virulence, vaccine and/or antimicrobial resistance and broadened host range.

Through an iterative approach we will (1) establish specific causal connections between socio-economics, human behaviours, pathogen evolution and disease transmission, (2) identify 'nodes' of particularly high risk in poultry production chains and networks, and (3) test and evaluate interventions.

Significant reductions in risk to human and animal health require holistic interventions (technical, behavioural and regulatory) designed for, and implemented across, all levels of production systems. By studying poultry value chains in four countries at differing stages of intensification (Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka and Vietnam), we will achieve a deep and generalisable understanding of production factors that increase risk, including those that govern decision-making and behaviours along value chains. Using innovative methods that enhance existing microbiological, epidemiological and social science, we will contribute research-based evidence to support policies and systems that can meet anticipated demand whilst minimising adverse public health consequences. This includes designing interventions in well-characterised systems, evaluating their impacts, and generating research-informed models for resilient management of transition from lower to higher intensity systems. To ensure global relevance, we include settings that vary in their levels of intensification, as well as their epidemiological, socio-economic and cultural contexts. With an integrated vision, the Hub has a portfolio of scalable research and the capacity to play a strategic role in an innovative global agenda.

We will explicitly build capacity for the interdisciplinary research that is essential for a Hub, and for supporting cross-sectorial collaborations at national and regional levels. Without effective stewardship by governments and transnational agencies and a greater understanding of the global political economy of chicken production, we hypothesise that the risk of deleterious outcomes of intensification will increase as poultry production continues to scale up dramatically and demand increased inputs, such as processed feed and antibiotics.

The project is working in Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka and Vietnam, and funded for 5 years from March 2019, and funded at about £19 Mill.


Funded by Global Challenges Research Fund, UK Research and Innovation