Veterinarian Angela Scott accidentally discovered a poultry disease not commonly seen in Australia since the 1980s and this week received an award from Australian Eggs to learn more about it.
Dr Scott, a poultry food production officer with Biosecurity South Australia, was at a farm where the chickens weren’t laying well and some were dying. In post-mortems, the chickens looked like they had a condition called spotty liver disease. But a test for the bacteria that causes spotty liver disease came back negative, and the birds weren’t responding to antibiotics.
“To me, that was just saying there’s got to be something else that’s causing this problem,” she said. After an offhand comment from her supervisor, Angela secretly tested for a virus commonly seen in meat breeders in the 1980s — big liver and spleen disease. To her surprise, it came back positive. “We had no idea what that meant,” Dr Scott said.
There is very little known about the disease in Australian layer birds, and it hadn’t been seen as a problem in meat breeders for decades.
Dr Scott wants to work with poultry vets around the country to find out if other farms are affected by the disease. There have been recent reports of cases in China and parts of the United States. Angela
Dr Scott admits specialising in poultry was an unusual choice out of vet school, after being introduced to the commercial poultry industry by her poultry lecturer. And with his support, Angela completed her PhD at the University of Sydney in avian influenza risk assessment. “There’s a whole world out there committed to improving poultry health and welfare, and most importantly, producing safe food for people,” she said.
She received her award at this week’s Science and Innovation Awards for Young People in Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, announced at the Canberra ABARES Outlook.