Artificial Insemination in Poultry and Possible Transmission of Infectious
Pathogens: A Review
Spallanzanis thought of Artificial Insemination (AI) has revolutionized
the animal husbandry field, both in developing and developed countries, by improving
the genetic potential of livestock and poultry; minimizing the managemental
costs and holding the service of genetically superior males even after their
death. AI in domesticated birds especially in turkey shows promising results
unlike other domestic and wild animals. The advantages of AI are many which
support the wide adaptation of this technique in the poultry industry to augment
its growth. Making AI as an integral part of captive breeding programme for
non-domesticated birds would facilitate the process of saving various endangered
species of wild birds. However, there are various problems involved in case
of birds which need to be addressed before implementing AI. Apart from these,
AI also poses a risk of possible transmission of various infectious pathogens/diseases
of poultry through semen or its contamination or during the process of insemination.
Hence, careful and regular screening and monitoring of poultry will help to
check the spread of such diseases. Novel methods are adopted to prevent the
colonization of contaminant microbes in stored semen thereby minimizing the
pathogen transfer. The recent advances in biotechnology and molecular biology
need to be explored fully for early and rapid diagnosis of poultry diseases.
This would help in formulating appropriate disease prevention and control strategies
and thus safeguard poultry health and production. This review describes the
salient facts about AI practices in poultry and possible transmission of infectious
pathogens during insemination along with suitable prevention and control strategies
to be adapted.
Received: December 24, 2013;
Accepted: January 28, 2014;
Published: April 19, 2014
Artificial Insemination (AI) of farm animals is very common in current animal
husbandry practices and livestock and poultry breeding programmes. It is being
practiced especially for breeding of dairy cattle, horses, pigs, pedigreed dogs,
exotic and captive wildlife and poultry to obtain and propagate desirable characteristics/traits
of one male to many progeny (Cooper, 1977; Rutz
and Xavier, 1998; Foote, 2002; Gee
et al., 2004; Blanco et al., 2009;
Dhama et al., 2007; Bakst
and Long, 2010). It is meant to upgrade the herds or overcome breeding related
problems in an economical way. Among the great biotechnological technologies
artificial insemination holds upper hand for improving reproductive efficiencies
of poultry and for this reason it has got an enormous impact worldwide. The
impact of this technology has become the hallmark of certain other reproductive
technologies like sexing of sperm; culture and transfer; as well as cloning
(Donoghue and Wishart, 2000; Spasojevic,
The credit of first successful AI goes to Spallanzani and
Bonnet (1784), who did it in dog which resulted to three pups 62 days later.
This technique was first successfully used in birds almost a century ago when
Ivanov (1907) produced fertile chicken eggs using semen
recovered from the vas deferens of cock. However, phenomenal growth of AI in
birds began in 1935 when researchers in USA, learned techniques to obtain semen
from male fowl (Rutz and Xavier, 1998). Quinn and Burrows
were the two pioneers who first reported the present days technique of
intravaginal insemination (Quinn and Burrows, 1936).
Thereafter, with the support of recent advances in science and technology AI
is playing a major role in up gradation of the poultry production in many countries
(Surai and Wishart, 1996; Rutz
and Xavier, 1998; Dhama et al., 2007).
It is established now that AI in poultry expresses better fertility than natural
mating and it has the ability to speed up the rate of genetic improvement by
increasing selection differential, wherein one highly selected sire is mated
with thousands of females (Chaudhury, 1996; Gill
et al., 1999; Gee et al., 2004; Dhama
et al., 2007). This technique is practiced extensively with commercial
turkeys. Continuous genetic selection for turkeys with large breast muscling
has resulted in many heavy breeds which are no longer capable to properly breed
naturally; because of their large size the natural mating may also result in
injuries to birds, this has forced the adoption of AI in commercial turkey production.
The technique of AI is also getting momentum in other poultry species. For example,
as fertility in the broiler breeds continues to decline as males are selected
for growth, AI may become cost effective in broiler breeder management. However,
due to the presence of cloacal gland foam in quail and low semen volume in quail
and guinea fowl, AI is not very ease to be performed. Similarly, AI procedure
is not as simple in ducks and geese unlike chickens and turkey hens; because
of the difficulties in semen collection (intromittent phallus) and oviduct evertion
and therefore commercial demand for AI in these species is limited. AI technique
has also been successfully adapted to wild birds such as cranes, bustards and
peregrine falcon (Blanco et al., 2009) and in
some pet and fancy birds like pigeon and parrot (Sontakke
et al., 2004; Lierz et al., 2013).
The significance of this technique may be more important for those birds that
belong to the endangered list where captive breeding is the only option to restore
the population status).
With the advancement in the AI technology in poultry in near future it will
be possible to increase the insemination interval to 10-14 days (instead of
7 days) with lesser concentration of sperm per insemination (Froman
et al., 2011). There is also greater chance of getting good quality
of transgenic progeny following the insemination of sperm that carry transgenes.
This review discusses about the various aspects of AI in poultry along with
the microbial diseases that can interfere with this technology and pose significant
health and production threats to poultry producers. It also focuses suitable
prevention and control strategies to be adopted for sexually/vertically transmitted
infectious pathogens during AI which would enlighten the researchers to make
a progress towards better outcomes of this technology.
ARTIFICIAL INSEMINATION (AI) IN BIRDS: FACTS AND IMPORTANCE
The poultry sector has now become a major contributor to a nations economy
as a result of the revolutionary and scientific approaches in avian health care
management and efficient breeding programs. As the poultry industry is expanding,
there is a true need for improving the efficiency and output of production.
At this juncture, the role of artificial insemination in addition to the breeding
policies need to be given due importance if we have to improve the production
in heavier breeds. Poultry production is now focused towards intensive and semi-intensive
production systems; so a fruitful AI program should be well supplemented with
proper equipments and sufficient qualified handlers to ensure that collection
of semen and insemination are done in a scientific and hygienic manner. This
ensures a positive impact on hatchability of various genotypes of chickens (Paul
et al., 1999; Dhama et al., 2007).
AI has made significant contributions to the breeding of domestic birds and
other pet and captive birds. In case of chickens AI has not got wide application
but in case of special breeding work it is used on routine basis (www.as.nchu.edu.tw).
This technique has been successfully used in breeding programs of many rare
and endangered species like perigreen falcons and others and efforts are being
made to develop methods of preserving falcon semen through cryo-preservation
and banking frozen semen. AI can be used to overcome behavioral problems associated
with mating in such captive birds (Barna, 1995; Froman
et al., 2011). AI in poultry has practical impact in an economical
point of view for poultry farmers/producers (Surai and
In certain birds like the prey birds viz., turkeys and cranes; pigeons there
is frequent use of collection of semen and artificial insemination subsequently.
In larger psittacines in contrast there have been reports of semen collection
anecdotally. Therefore, insemination has been done successfully in small psittacines.
Such studies regarding AI in birds if conducted can help to protect certain
endangered species of psittacine birds like large parrots (Lierz,
2008). To make it practically viable, a quiet, unhurried approach is necessary
for handling of breeder birds during AI, following up of appropriate semen collection
and insemination procedures, which all need to be done in a scientific manner.
Prior to semen collection, the selected male birds should be examined for external
parasites or infectious pathogens and treated accordingly. Clipping of feathers
from around vent area will give easy access to male organ. In turkeys, the volume
obtained is about 0.35-0.5 mL, with a spermatozoon concentration of 6-8 billion
mL-1, whereas in chickens, the total volume is 2-3 times that of
turkeys, but concentration is only one-half. After collection of semen, insemination
is done by simple process of transferring semen samples directly into the oviduct
of the hen, manually using small diameter glass or plastic tubes (Bakst,
1992; Bakst et al., 1994). Freshly collected
semen samples can also be diluted with diluents to obtain desired spermatozoa
concentration for multiple inseminations or for short-term and long-term storage
(Birkhead et al., 1994; Chaudhury,
Artificial insemination technique: Most widely practised method of AI
in poultry was developed by Quinn and Burrows (1936).
The technique involves combined action of applying pressure on the abdomen along
with evertion of vaginal orifice. The procedure is called by different names
as crackling, venting or everting the hen. With the aid of straws or syringes
semen (80-100 million spermatozoa) is deposited in the vaginal orifice (to the
depth of 2-4 cm or as close as possible to the sperm storage tubules). The depth
of insemination actually depends upon the species of the bird and length of
vagina. Usually, AI is carried out in the late afternoon (Brillard
and Bakst, 1990) because at this time the incidence of the hard-shelled
eggs in the uterus of the hens is rare.
Methods of semen collection: In different birds the anatomical variation
in the phallic region primarily leads to the variation in semen collection techniques.
In order to have a good AI programme the first step should be to have a good
quantity of semen from a good donor bird. It is necessary to develop a simple
as well as effective method of collection of semen as well as insemination for
making use of the potential role of birds in poultry research as well as production
(Burrows and Quinn, 1937; Chelmonska
et al., 2008). To achieve this, semen should be collected from the
donor birds in such a way that the required amount is obtained without environmental
contamination. Three or four times milking of the male birds should be done
in order to check quantity as well as colour of semen. Preservation of semen
becomes useless in cases if there is refusal in production of semen by the male
birds 10 days after handling or if there is discolouration of the semen which
is normally white (Gee and Sexton, 1990; Tselutin
et al., 1995). Unlike domestic animals which can be trained easily
to mount a dummy and ejaculate, birds are tricky especially wild birds which
are usually in flight. The usual methods followed for collection of semen from
birds are as follows:
||Co-operative approach: As the name implies this technique
needs co-operation from the donor birds which can be achieved by an external
stimulus which are of behavioral, for example voice, nest, food (Hamerstrom,
1970). The lead point of this technique is that there is no stress and
injury free on the bird as there is no bird handling involved. The major
advantage of this technique is that the quality of semen is good without
contaminants like feaces and urine. However, the quantity of the semen obtained
will be less which is the drawback of this technique. The co-operative approach
technique showed promising results with artificial vagina in case of Muscovy
ducks (Gvaryahu et al., 1984), Emu (Malecki
et al., 1997) and with female dummy in case of Houbara bustard
(Jalme et al., 1994), quail (Chelmonska
et al., 2008) and ostrich. Uses of dummy or teaser females require
a special mention in this regard (Rybnik et al.,
||Electro-ejaculation: This technique is commonly employed for ducks
and geese, psittacines and pigeons. Anaesthesia is a mandatory in this technique
and contamination with urine is a major drawback (Harrison
and Wasmund, 1983; Betzen, 1985; Samour
et al., 1985)
||Abdominal massage technique: This is the mostly widely accepted
and used technique technique (Burrows and Quinn, 1935)
which is yet a non invasive method (Howell and Bartholomew,
1952; Birkhead et al., 1995). In chickens
and turkeys it involves massaging of the cloacal region in order to achieve
phallic tumescence (Burrows and Quinn, 1935). Properly
restrained donors are stroked gently in the back region behind the wings
which stimulates most males with phallic engorgement at which state the
cloaca can be squeezed to collect the semen (Cooper,
1977). There may be however damage to the phallic as well as cloacal
regions due to additional cloacal strokes thereby contributing to semen
contamination (Malecki et al., 2008). For
investigation of the physical as well as biochemical characteristics of
the semen of broiler chicken attempts have been made. Abdominal message
method has been used for collection of semen of certain indigenous poultry
birds like Kadaknath (Shinde et al., 2012)
Semen dilution: After collection the spermatozoa start losing integrity
thereby causing reduced fertility. Within 30-45 min of collection it is useful
to dilute semen. There is report of excellent levels of fertility with chicken
as well as turkey semen in vitro for 24 h or more. The volume of semen
is increased by dilution thereby helping to retain integrity of cells and buffering
the detrimental effects that use to arise on storage. Ideal extenders and their
careful handling are required in general if semen need to be stored (Koohpar
et al., 2010). Semen has to get diluted with suitable diluent in
order to: (i) Increase semen volume, (ii) Increase in number of birds inseminated
by per unit volume of semen and (iii) Finally, it prolongs the sperm survival
for both short and long term preservation of semen in vitro. Semen with
proper diluents would be economically viable and effective for insemination
in birds. Using the semen diluent, the services of a superior male can be used
maximally by the AI technique. Hence, the major objective of the diluent is
to improve the reproductive efficiency of cock and to reduce the cost of AI.
However, variations exist between the males of different breeds/species of fowl
with respect to the physico-biochemical characteristics and fertilizing ability
of their spermatozoa. Hence, it is not possible to develop a master semen diluent
for all the avian species. This necessitate a breed/species specific semen diluent
for avian species for short term preservation (Mohan et
al., 2011). There are many commercially available semen diluents nowadays
such as Lakes, Tyrode and BPSE etc. A simple diluent for chicken (WLH)
semen for short term storage (24 h) at low temperature has also been developed
(Mohan et al., 2000).
Advantages of artificial insemination in birds:
||A manifold increase in mating ratio utilizing appropriate
semen diluent compared to natural mating where usually one cockerel mates
with six to ten hens
||Use of older males from outstanding performers for improving the genetic
identity of flock can be used for several generations. Whereas, under natural
mating their useful life is limited
||Valuable male birds that have been injured in the leg, unable to mate
naturally, can be utilized
||Poor fertility problems caused by preferential mating (monogamous mating
and color discrimination) of birds can be eliminated. Whenever fertile eggs
are needed laying cages are no longer problems. AI solves the problem of
using colony cages with several hens and one rooster that usually decreases
the fertility rate (Surai and Wishart, 1996)
||There is reduced chance of transmission of infectious and contagious diseases,
apart from those transmitted through semen, from tom (adult male of turkey)
or cock to the hens as there is no physical contact (Chaudhury,
||Breeding experiments can be facilitated. Chickens, turkeys, guinea fowl,
ducks, geese and quail are used in intra-species and inter-species insemination
experiments. Reciprocal crossing of wild geese with domesticated geese has
||Transportation of birds from one region to another is difficult but semen
can be transported easily and at a large scale
||Prevention of vertically and sexually transmitted diseases can be achieved
in a poultry flock if properly certified and good quality semen is used
(Das et al., 2004)
||AI can serve as a good means for conservation of endangered avian species
(Blanco et al., 2009). As of now there are
approximately 1,308 species of avian which are marked either as endangered
or threatened (BirdLife International, 2013)
||As far as the production of hatching eggs are concerned reduced libido
in case of poultry birds is a costly problem for which AI is practiced for
overcoming such problem
ARTIFICIAL INSEMINATION IN WILD BIRDS
Artificial insemination has brought a revolution in case of domestic animals
and has also stepped into the field of avian husbandry but it has certain limitations
in case of its implementation in wild avian species. The outmost limitations
are semen collection, low volume of poor quality semen, lack of proper semen
diluents and finally scanty information on reproductive physiology of wild species.
Wild avian species are not usually at rest and it cross border which is the
major hurdle for the implementation of AI in these species. AI is the urgent
need in the present context of time in order to conserve the valuable wild avian
species which are listed as endangered. AI has already been successfully implemented
at a larger extent in the conservation programme of cranes, bustards and peregrine
falcon (Blanco et al., 2009). Research shows
that by implementation of AI, fertility of eggs can be improved by additional
5-10%. Captive breeding of non-domestic birds has increased dramatically and
there is every possibility that production of young birds often exceeds that
of the same number of birds in their native habitat. Co-operative, massage and
electroejaculation are the three methods described for semen collection. Training
of birds imprinted on men forms the basis of co-operative method of AI and extensively
used in some raptor programs. In order to inseminate larger number of birds
the massage technique is generally used. Semen collection by electrical stimulation
is however not practiced generally. In reproductively active birds, the electroejaculation
is possible without prior conditioning (when properly restrained) unlike the
other two methods which require behavioral co-operation by the birds. AI in
wild birds achieved the highest fertility rate with inseminations of more than
10 million spermatozoa every 4-5 days. Multiple deep inseminations used to improve
fertility and poor semen quality can be overcome in this manner. It is also
to be kept in mind that captive breeding must be used to increase or maintain
populations by releasing captive-bred individuals after AI (Gee
and Temple, 1978; Seddon et al., 1995; Jalme,
2002; Gee et al., 2004).
POINTS FOR SUCCESSFUL AI PROGRAMME
||Semen samples should be free from transparent fluid, which
is released from the lymph fold present in cloacal region. This fluid is
found rich of calcium ion which causes the agglutination of the spermatozoa
resulting into a rapid loss of fertilizing ability in fowl. Thus, for AI,
to maintain high fertility it is advisable not to collect semen contaminated
with excessive amounts of transparent fluid
||AI must be conducted with fresh semen as it has become easy to collect
semen in poultry and seeing proximity of hen in large breeding farms. In
certain instances cryopreservation of poultry semen is recommended but it
may prove less fertile, for the purpose of this utilisation of frozen semen
further experiments have been suggested (Gill et
al., 1999; Foote, 2002)
||Candidate birds can be fasted 5-7 h before the scheduled AI so that there
will not be any faecal matter which obstructs the AI
||Handling of the birds should be done away from the nest to prevent breakage
of eggs and also handling should be gentle to prevent trauma
||Conditioning of wild birds is necessary so to have a smooth AI programme
because unconditioned birds may struggle which will hinder the transport
of sperm to the ovum
||Immediately after AI, food item which is favourite for the bird can be
provided so as to make a conditioned reflex phenomenon (Staley
et al., 2007)
||One/two inseminations per week prior to onset of egg laying should be
carried out in chicken
PATHOGENS/DISEASES TRANSMITTED DURING ARTIFICIAL INSEMINATION IN BIRDS
Improper handling and lack of hygiene is expected to result in contamination
of semen with harmful microbes (or pathogens) which could be transferred to
the bird/hen and the progeny (Guy et al., 1995;
Lombardo, 1998; Lierz, 2008).
Moreover, the unscientific management of breeder flocks kept for semen collection
will result in them contracting Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs). For developing
suitable birds for AI procedures, factors such as the health parameters of the
breeder/parent stock and freedom from pathogens such as Avian leukosis virus
(ALV), Chicken anaemia virus (CAV), Mycoplasma, Salmonella,
Campylobacter and others need to be efficiently monitored (Corrier
et al., 1999; Buhr et al., 2005;
Dhama et al., 2007, 2008a;
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)/microbes through semen: Dual functions
of excretion as well as transfer of gametes are served by the avian cloaca.
During copulation between cock and hen, microbes may get directly transmitted
as because intestinal microbes can get incorporated into ejaculate (Sheldon,
1993). Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) may thus be important selective
forces in the evolutionary process for the choice of avian mate as well as for
selection of mating systems (Hamilton, 1990; Lombardo,
1998; Dhama et al., 2007).
Exposure to potentially pathogenic STM from semen may influence female reproductive
performance, their health status and affect survival of their offsprings. This
most important factor has to be looked upon seriously during AI procedure. Chances
of microbial contamination of semen due to improper and unhygienic collection
practices could result in propagation of disease causing agents (viral/bacterial)
to a large number of birds and in a wider way even to distant places depending
upon practical application or utility of AI in poultry (Van
Eck and Goren, 1980). Incidences have been reported regarding transmission
of Salmonella (Salmonella Gallinarum causing Fowl Typhoid and
Salmonella Pullorum causing Pullorum Disease) through semen; which resulted
in presence of this organism in ovaries and oviducts of female chickens and
these birds laid Salmonella contaminated eggs, leading to disease in
progeny followed by mortality (Reiber et al., 1995;
Donoghue et al., 2004; Dhama
et al., 2007; Kabir, 2010). These microbes
present in the semen can also cause male infertility. Mycoplasma meleagridis
in turkeys is predominantly transmitted vertically from parent stock. M.
iowae, mostly spread in lay, occurs following unskillful artificial insemination.
Exclusion of mycoplasmas from breeder flocks is the most effective way of preventing
the negative economic impacts on poultry producers.
Cock semen meant for AI may contain Campylobacter or Salmonella
due to contamination of the diluents (Cole et al.,
2004; Buhr et al., 2005). This all occurs
due to the unscientific collection and handling of the semen. Contaminated semen
can easily transmit these bacteria during AI in turkeys as because the semen
on turkey farms are pooled and subsequently are used for insemination of multiple
hens. Even the tested semen extenders cannot reduce or eliminate the bacteria
from semen. This gives rise to the fact that especially Campylobacter remains
as the most predominant pathogen in turkey semen that gets transferred to hens
through AI (Blaser, 1997; Byrd et
al., 2003; Donoghue et al., 2004). Campylobacter-positive
semen, could provide a route in addition to fecal-oral, for transmission of
Campylobacter from rooster to the reproductive tract of hen i.e., vertical
transmission between dam and offspring (Cox et al.,
2002; Tomar et al., 2006). Diseases like
avian influenza, Newcastle Disease (ND), duck plague (duck viral enteritis-caused
by duck herpesvirus 1) and turkey rhinotracheitis (Pneumovirus)
have also been a constant threat to the AI program in birds; due to ease of
horizontal transmission and possible semen contamination or contamination during
AI procedure (Senthilkumar et al., 2003; Dhama
et al., 2005, 2007, 2013a).
Transmission of Chicken anaemia virus (CAV) via semen is also possible
apart from avian leucosis (Hoop, 1993; Dhama
et al., 2007, 2008a). Eastern equine encephalitis
virus and Highlands J virus have also be reported to be experimentally
transmitted through semen of infected tom turkeys (Guy
et al., 1995). Venereal transmission of Infectious bronchitis
virus (IBV) has also been reported recently (Gallardo
et al., 2011).
Semen can also be contaminated with vertically transmitted pathogens viz.,
Egg drop syndrome-76 (EDS-76) virus, Avian encephalomyelitis (AE)
virus, Avian Reovirus (ARV), Avian leukosis virus (ALV) etc. (Smith
and Fadly, 1994; Segura et al., 1988; Senthilkumar
et al., 2003; Dhama et al., 2007).
Various other important poultry pathogens viz. Infectious bronchitis virus
(IBV), Newcastle disease virus (NDV), Avian rotavirus, Infectious
bursal disease virus (IBDV); Escherichia coli, Pasteurella
(fowl cholera), Chlamydia, etc., apart from Sexually Transmitted Microbes
(STMs) during route of fertility, could be transmitted as possible contaminants
during AI; since cloaca in birds is the common point of secretion/excretion
for digestive, urinary and reproductive system (Blanco and
Hofle, 2004; Kabir, 2010; Dhama
et al., 2007, 2009, 2013b,
c). As the semen is pooled and then used to inseminate
multiple hens, contaminated semen could easily spread the pathogens throughout
entire flocks via artificial insemination. Other diseases reported to be transmitted
through imported poultry semen include avian Spirochetosis (Borrelia anserina)
and Goose Parvovirus Infection. Erysipelothrix insidiosa is responsible
for causing a disease called erysipelas primarily in turkeys and secondarily
in chickens as well as ducks and geese due to application of AI techniques (www.thepoultrysite.com).
There are several hypotheses which have been proposed for explaining the phenomenon
of repeated copulation of female birds with a single mate inspite of the fact
that a single copulation is only required for fertilizing an entire clutch.
Copulation at high frequencies along with the uses of multiple copulation partners
provided, they receive a cloacal inoculation of beneficial microbes which are
sexually transmitted and which can protect the birds from future encounters
with pathogens (Lombardo et al., 1999).
KEYS FOR A SUCCESSFUL AI PROGRAM IN POULTRY
Keeping healthy flocks is essential for a successful AI program in poultry.
The male birds that are used to collect the semen should be devoid of harmful
pathogens that can be transmitted through semen (STMs) or contaminate the semen
as well as ruin the health status of the breeder male. For this purpose, a holistic
management and disease prevention/control strategy has to be devised and followed
in order to have a meaningful and fruitful result. Breeder males that are reared
in a comfort zone devoid of stress and harmful pathogens are more liable to
yield healthy semen (Chaudhury, 1996). To keep in check
all the stressful factors and microbial pathogens as well as to improve the
nutritional status of the breeder flock, basic principles regarding to the avian
disease management is to be applied with top priority (Dhama
et al., 2003, 2007; Kataria
et al., 2005; Dhama and Mahendran, 2008).
Good management practices and biosecurity measures: General management
strategies need to be strengthened so as to maintain stress-free and healthy
flock of birds. Freedom from stress is an essential prerequisite. Pneumonia
and heat stress in birds is a common problem due to lapses in proper management.
For reducing the stress in birds, vitamin C and mineral supplementation (Zinc)
along with appropriate nutritional modulation is necessary. Provision of nutritionally
balanced feed is inevitable for the production of a healthy semen production
in breeder toms and cockerels. Lack of vitamins and minerals in diet may predispose
to various deficiency diseases and result in general weakness and reduced performance
in birds kept for breeding purposes (Das, 2002).
The personnel who are involved should have adequate knowledge of proper collection
methods that may help in excluding microbial agents. The addition of antimicrobials
at appropriate concentrations and proper storage and transportation of semen
are also essential for the development of a successful AI program in poultry.
Eradication of the sexually transmitted bacterial diseases of poultry depends
largely on the selection of antibiotics along with improved hygiene and managemental
practices. Use of various groups of antibiotics viz., tetracyclines, macrolides,
quinolones and tiamulin can help to prevent the diseases caused by stringent
pathogens (e.g., Mycoplasma) (Stipkovits and Kempf,
1996). Good managemental practices along with the use of bacterins are useful
in controlling disease like Erysipelas in poultry (www.thepoultrysite.com).
Strict biosecurity principles need to be followed so as to keep the pathogens
away (Dhama et al., 2003; Sharma,
2010; Conan et al., 2012). Biosecurity refers
to the methods adopted to secure a disease free environment by preventing the
exposure of the birds/flock to disease causing organisms by reducing the introduction
and spread of pathogens into and between farms. It involves an understanding
of the principles of epidemiology and economics and requires teamwork to maximize
benefits. Awareness as well as resources and perception of higher risk as well
as loss of profit form the basis of implementing biosecurity. As rearing poultry
is often considered as a secondary activity, basic biosecurity implementation
especially in villages is not seen as a priority. But when the question of artificial
insemination comes, biosecurity measures are considered as the first priority
(Conan et al., 2012). Key principles of biosecurity
are (1) Isolation, which is the confinement of birds within a controlled environment,
(2) Traffic control, which includes both the traffic onto your farm and the
traffic patterns within the farm and (3) Sanitation, which addresses the disinfection
of materials, people and equipment entering the farm and the cleanliness of
the farm personnel (Dhama et al., 2003, 2007).
A clean sanitized environment is a good insurance against disease outbreak and
hence, a high standard of hygiene is required in the poultry farms. When there
is threat of break down of biosecurity norms automatically the introduction
of new stock of birds poses risk of great importance to the health of birds.
Managing such factor is therefore a top priority in a poultry farm. At the same
time, economics as well as common sense and relative risk should be considered
while taking into consideration biosecurity measures for proper and successful
AI program in poultry (Sharma, 2010). Effective and
targeted use of biosecurity measures, high levels of management along with environmental
control can reduce the infections like salmonellosis and campylobacteriosis
to a greater extent (Reiber et al., 1995; Cole
et al., 2004). There is thus need for formulating norms for the maintenance
and use of quality poultry semen in AI.
Diagnosis, surveillance and monitoring of infectious pathogens: One
should also be aware of the essential prerequisites for developing healthy and
disease-free flocks, for which early and accurate diagnosis of pathogens/disease
is very crucial. Familiarity with symptoms of the disease as well as lesions
and follow up of proper diagnostic procedures helps in adopting appropriate
disease prevention and control program against poultry pathogens. Epidemiologic
surveillance is critical to detect new outbreaks and contain them timely before
they could cause an outbreak that affects the breeder toms, cockerels or the
hens. Proper attention should be paid towards early diagnosis and prevention
of diseases of poultry. The flocks should be tested regularly for salmonellosis,
mycoplasmosis and campylobacteriosis, using serological tests like Rapid Plate
Agglutination Test (RPAT), immunodiffusion (Agar Gel Precipitation Test, AGPT)
tests and cultural procedures (Cox et al., 2002;
Kataria et al., 2005; Tomar
et al., 2006; Dhama et al., 2007).
Surveillance and monitoring of major viral pathogens like AIV, NDV, ALV, IBDV,
IBV, CAV, EDS-76 virus etc. should be followed regularly to know the disease
status. The serological tests commonly employed for the detection of viral diseases
of birds are haemagglutination (HA), Haemagglutination Inhibition (HI), Agar
Gel Immunodiffusion (AGID), Serum Neutralization (SN), Complement Fixation Test
(CFT), Indirect Fluorescent Antibody Technique (IIFT) and Enzyme Linked Immunosorbent
Assay (ELISA). The conventional procedures involving virus or bacterial isolation
and detection methods like cultural techniques, staining and biochemical procedures,
cell cultures and various diagnostics available need to be used optimally.
The use of nucleic acid based diagnostics has increased exponentially in the
recent years and has redefined the level of information available for poultry
disease prevention and control programs (Kataria et al.,
2005; Dhama and Mahendran, 2008; Dhama
et al., 2012a). After the introduction of nucleic acid hybridization
techniques, researchers put forward a novel technique called Polymerase Chain
Reaction (PCR), which amplifies a desired part of the genome of a microbe. Various
oligonucleotide primers have been designed to amplify a specific portion of
the bacterial, viral or fungal pathogen, thus enabling its specific detection.
Nowadays, PCR is widely employed for the detection of almost all microbial pathogens
of poultry (Kataria et al., 2005; Dhama
and Mahendran, 2008; Ongor et al., 2009;
Menghistu et al., 2011). A newer and more sophisticated
version of PCR called real time PCR also emerged in recent times and is capable
of detecting the presence of pathogen in no time. This technique is based on
the principle of fluorescent resonance energy transfer and uses flourogenic
probes in the process. Multiplex PCR and quantitative PCR are other useful versions
for detecting, differentiating and viral load estimations. Modern tools and
technologies for detection of pathogens like loop-mediated isothermal amplification
of DNA (LAMP), nanobiotechnology, microarrays, biochips and biosensors also
need be applied to their full potential (Dhama and Mahendran,
2008; Dhama et al., 2012a, 2014).
Laboratory techniques based on nucleic acid detection methods have increased
in popularity among microbiologists, over the last decade as it is very sensitive,
rapid and easy to perform. The molecular detection of microbial pathogens has
the advantage of rapid screening of poultry flocks for the presence of disease
causing pathogen. This could also help to identify the subclinical disease status
and identify the carrier birds, which need to be eliminated to prevent the spread
of pathogens to healthier birds and thus keep the flock disease free. Regular
sero-surveillance and monitoring for various bacterial, viral and fungal pathogens
is essential in order to maintain a disease-free flock. A rapid and specific
detection of microbial pathogens in the semen will help to remove the infected
stocks/birds and improve the practical feasibility of AI program. Altogether,
this would help preventing diseases transmitted via semen and contamination,
thus checking the multiple and wide dissemination of poultry pathogens via artificial
insemination (Kataria et al., 2005; Dhama
et al., 2007).
Immunization programs: Appropriate immunoprophylaxis/vaccination schedules
need to be implemented against major pathogens of poultry. Judicious vaccination
is a major strategy used by poultry producers for prevention of major poultry
pathogens that may affect the flocks kept for semen collection. The breeder
males should always be vaccinated against the diseases that are endemic to a
particular region. Also other poultry flocks should be vaccinated appropriately
using killed or live vaccines available (Kataria et
al., 2005; Dhama and Mahendran, 2008). If properly
and timely done on a priority basis, vaccination helps to get healthy and disease
free flock maintenance. With the present disease scenario in indigenous poultry
flocks, the birds should be primarily protected against Mareks Disease
(MD), ND, fowl pox, IB, IBD and also for preventing vertically transmitted diseases
like EDS-76 and CAV (Hoop, 1993; Dhama
et al., 2007).
Recent advances in diagnosis, vaccine and therapeutics: Advances in
developing rapid and confirmatory diagnostic tools along with strengthening
of surveillance and monitoring systems for detecting poultry pathogens are to
be exploited to their optimum applications (Kataria et
al., 2005; Dhama and Mahendran, 2008; Dhama
et al., 2013d). Recent developments for finding safer and effective
vaccines (DNA vaccines, plant based vaccines, reverse genetics based vaccines
etc.) must be explored in the right directions to prevent various poultry diseases
(Dhama and Mahendran, 2008; Dhama
et al., 2008b; 2013e). Several novel/alternative
therapeutic and immunomodulatory regimens (avian egg antibodies, phages, cytokines,
herbs, panchgavya, probiotics and others) are nowadays available, which need
to be implemented widely to counter poultry pathogens (Dhama
et al., 2011, 2012a, b,
et al., 2012; Lateef et al., 2013;
Tiwari et al., 2011, 2014a,
b; Karthik et al., 2014).
Besides all these, suitable and effective disease prevention and control strategies
inclusive of strict biosecurity and good management practices to lessen the
burden of infectious microbes need to be applied very practically and holistically
(Kataria et al., 2005; Dhama
et al., 2007; Dhama and Mahendran, 2008).
The emerging scenario of antibiotic resistance need to be kept in mind and antibiotics
should be prescribed after proper antibiotic susceptibility testing (Tiwari
et al., 2013). The issues of emerging and re-emerging diseases, global
warming and one health concept also needs due attention so as to follow appropriate
and timely disease diagnosis, prevention and control strategies for safeguarding
overall poultry health and productivity (Dhama et al.,
Selection and breeding programs: For all agriculture based breeding
companies genomic selection is becoming a new paradigm. In order to perform
genetic evaluation and selection of elite poultry population genomic selection
will act to reshape the whole program. Healthy male chicks of good breeds should
be procured from disease free sources for the purpose of starting an AI operation.
These sources should maintain strict biosecurity, good sanitation and hygiene
and appropriate disease prevention/control programmes. Poultry geneticists have
to include various selection procedures, in order to evolve disease resistant
breeds. Research and development efforts are required to develop suitable genotypes
with better immuno-competence, production potential and functional traits (Dhama
and Mahendran, 2008; Dhama et al., 2012b).
Marker Assisted Selection (MAS) is nowadays used to develop genetically superior
breeding stock (Paul et al., 1999). Genetic
selection has identified disease resistance loci in Major Histocompatibility
Complex (MHC) gene for Mareks disease and avian leucosis. The BL-bII genotype
has been found to be associated with disease resistance capabilities and may
be used as marker in selection for the immunocompetence (Rutz
and Xavier, 1998). The association of Class II and Class-IV sub region of
MHC in contributing resistance for parasitic and viral diseases has also been
reported. Moreover, the advantages of the indigenous poultry breeds especially
the disease resistant abilities could also be transferred to generations using
a scientifically managed AI program. Although, there is dramatic decrease in
cost of genotypes relatively they are still expensive when the value of individual
bird is taken into consideration (Fulton, 2012).
A rational Artificial Insemination (AI) program with certified semen is capable of revolutionizing the poultry farming sector by targeting genetic improvement along with appropriate health strategies. Chickens, guinea fowl, turkeys, ducks, geese, quail, pet and fancy birds including pigeons are nowadays used for the purpose of AI. AI in domesticated birds can be used as a major tool for the genetic improvement of poultry as it is considered superior to natural mating in many aspects. The innovations in AI technology in poultry can be brought about by developing new species-specific semen diluents and performing extensive research on poultry sperm biology. To effectively utilize the potential of AI technology, manifold factors are to be taken into consideration. The first and the foremost factor of importance is the production of neat, healthier and pathogen free semen from the breeder flocks. For this to materialize, various strategies have to be framed in order to evolve a successful outcome. The presence of various microbes in the semen is detrimental to the whole production unit and will result in the total failure of the AI system. A rapid and specific detection of microbial pathogens in the semen will also help to remove the infected stock and improve the feasibility of AI programme, as well helping in prevention of diseases transmitted via imported/exported semen. The presence of the bacterial or viral pathogens in semen can be avoided by keeping healthy and properly monitored flocks as well as practicing strict sanitation and hygienic measures along with strict biosecurity principles in and around the rearing area. Healthy flock maintenance will largely depend on timely detection of the incidence of pathogenic microbes in the flocks by either conventional diagnostic tools, sero-monitoring or by using latest molecular biology detection tools. Immunization programs against major viral pathogens are of paramount importance while considering appropriate disease prevention and control strategy.
Apart from the detection of the presence of extraneous pathogens in semen, general management strategies are also to be devised so as to maintain stress free and healthy flock. The role of biosecurity and general management can never be undermined while intending to keep healthy flocks for any breeding program. For reducing the stress in birds, vitamin C and mineral supplementation along with appropriate nutritional modulation is necessary as it may induce a good immune status to the bird kept for the AI program. Healthy male chicks of good breeds should be procured from disease free sources for the purpose of starting an AI operation. Researchers have to include various selection procedures, in order to evolve disease resistant breeds. Apart from these, the advances in development of vaccines and therapeutics need to be utilized fully for safeguarding health and production of poultry. The development in avian genetics now has paved way for the generation of disease resistant breeds especially towards specific pathogens. Various selection procedures have also made it possible to develop birds with more functional potential. Regarding the processes involved before and after collection of the semen, the personnel who are involved should have adequate knowledge regarding proper collection methods that may help in excluding various microbial agents. The addition of antimicrobial agents at appropriate concentrations and proper storage and transportation facilities are also essential for the development of a successful AI program in poultry. There is also need for formulating norms for the maintenance and use of quality poultry semen in AI. A novel strategy, apart from the use of antimicrobial agents, has also to be developed in order to reduce the risk of colonization of pathogens in semen. Based on all these, it can be inferred that in near future, a strategic artificial insemination programme/practice in birds will play a major role in developing and propagating economically viable poultry flocks; making poultry faring more popular and profitable and also help in the breeding programs of exotic and endangered species of birds. In conclusion, a rationale AI programme with certified semen, targeting genetic improvement along with appropriate health strategies, will help revolutionizing the poultry farming and industry.
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