Interception and immune prophylaxis of avian pathogens E. coli (APEC) and associated infections to reduce antibiotic use in poultry

The research project Interimmun-APEC aims to reduce the use of antibiotics in poultry by early detection of pathogens.

Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial diseases. In poultry farming, the normally harmless intestinal bacterium Escherichia coli (EC) is of particular relevance, as various variants of this germ exist, that lead to severe diseases in chickens and turkeys, among others. These variants are called APEC (avian pathogenic EC). In many cases, APEC outbreaks are amplified or triggered primarily by viruses but also by other bacteria. However, these relationships and the genetically determined virulence factors of APEC are largely unexplored. This is where the Interimmun-APEC project comes in.

APEC field isolates are systematically obtained, sequenced and thus their virulence factors investigated in their entirety. Co-infections by viruses will also be recorded, diagnosed by molecular biology and their interaction investigated in cell cultures. Finally, a tool for the early detection of pathogens and prediction of their effects is to be developed from the research data obtained: the “Interception Diagnostic Tool”. If possible, this should replace direct manipulation of living animals by using environmental samples such as drinking water or stable bedding and enable preventive measures (e.g. cleaning, disinfection or the use of autogenous vaccines) that avoid the later use of antibiotics.

A particular focus of the project is the optimisation of autogenous APEC vaccines, the use of which is one of the most important options for prophylactic control of infectious diseases. In order to increase their effectiveness and safety, the project is adjusting production parameters and developing a system for monitoring the immune response.


15.04.2023 -14.04.2026


Federal Office for Agriculture and Food (BLE)




Dr. Kathleen Zocher


INVAC Deutschland GmbH, Universität Leipzig; Institut für Virologie der Verterinärmedizinischen Fakultät, Heidemark GmbH, SMB Services in Molecular Biology GmbH,