ESR6: Characterisation of metabolic responses in chickens exposed to nematode infections


Ascaridia galli and Heterakis gallinarum are the two most important gastrointestinal-nematode species, challenging the health and welfare of chickens. They impair host performance through reduced feed intake and lower feed conversion efficiency. However, infected chickens can expel vast majority of worms through humoral and local immune responses. Previous data indicate that there might be trade-offs in allocating metabolic resources between defense and performance functions in high performing chickens exposed to pathogenic challenges.


  1. Advance our understanding of the host-pathogen interactions with regard to metabolic cost of infection in chickens.
  2. Investigate whether and to what extend a trade-off in prioritization of metabolically essential resources between immune functions and performance takes places in nematode-infected chickens.
  3. Determine infection-induced alterations in metabolite profiles over time.
  4. Identify novel metabolic proxies with key roles in exchange between defence and performance following exposure to gastrointestinal nematodes.


  • Nematode infections will be characterised in detail with actual worm burdens (gold standard) and indirect infection proxies.
  • Analysis of plasma samples will be performed to determine concentrations of amino acids and metabolites representing energy, protein and lipid metabolism.
  • Metabolomics analysis on tissue samples will be caarried out to investigate how metabolic alterations in the host animal are related with infections.

Expected results

  1. Establish a trade-off in prioritization of metabolically essential resources between immune functions and performance parameters occurs in nematode infected chickens.
  2. Alterations in metabolites profiles are indicative of the above-mentioned trade-off, and certain (novel) metabolites can serve as a proxy of infections.

Planned secondments

  • At: TECOdevelopment (2 mo); Training in development of ELISAs of veterinary importance;
  • At: AU (3 mo); Training in metabolomics studies;
  • At: UTP (1 mo); Perform an in ovo pre- and/or probiotics supplementation trial combined with an LPS/pathogen challenge and assess physiological responses.

Enrolment in Doctoral degree:

ESR6 will either be enrolled at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Free University of Berlin


Gürbüz Daş (FBN), Nadia Everaert (ULiège)