Study to check backyard chicken runs

Salmonellosis, a food-borne gastrointestinal illness, has been increasing over the past decade in Australia, with eggs identified as the main cause.

Flinders University researchers are interested in the role backyard chickens might play in the spread of salmonellosis.

The aim of this study is to collect environmental samples (soil, chicken faeces and water) to identify potential sources of salmonella contamination.

This information will be used to reduce the risk of salmonellosis.

Initial results have detected salmonella in the faeces from several backyard chickens in South Australia, says PhD candidate Thilini Keerthiratne from environmental health research lab at the College of Science and Engineering.

She recommends several key steps that can be followed to reduce your risk of salmonellosis:

1. Collect the eggs twice a day to reduce the risk of bacteria growing and use the oldest eggs first;
2. Do not use any cracked or dirty;
3. Do not wash dirty eggs;
4. Store the eggs in clean containers in the refrigerator away from ready to eat foods,  and;
5. Wash hands after handling chickens or eggs.

Worldwide, food-borne illness is a significant public health burden. Global estimates indicating that every year there are just under 600 million cases, including 350,000 fatalities.

In Australia it was estimated that annually there are 4.1 million cases of food-borne illness including 30,000 hospitalisations and 100 fatalities. One of the most prevalent causes of food-borne illness is salmonellosis.

Over the past decade in Australia the incidence of salmonellosis has increased from 40.9 per 100,000 population in 2005 to 71.5 per 100,000 population in 2015. One of the most common sources of salmonellosis has been identified as raw eggs and egg products.

If you have backyard chickens and are interested in participating in the study, please email for more information.

PhD candidate Thilini Keerthiratne is looking for more backyard soil samples from the Adelaide metro area..
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College of Science and Engineering