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Fulgence N. Mpenda

PhD Student

Fulgence's research looks to understand the molecular basis of variation in susceptibility to Newcastle Disease virus in local Tanzanian chickens


About Me

Fulgence is a PhD student at The Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology (NM-AIST), under PEHPL.  Fulgence has a Masters degree in Life Sciences and Engineering (Health and Biomedical Sciences) from NM-AIST, and a Bachelor of Science degree in Molecular Biology and Biotechnology from University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM). He has research experience in Immunology and Molecular Biology. In his Bachelor degree, he characterized and compared Salmonella clinical isolates with isolates from chicken using molecular techniques. In his Masters research, he described the seroprevalence of Paratuberculosis in cattle and small ruminants within urban and peri-urban Arusha to provide an evidence of the possible presence of circulating Mycobacterium avium subspecies Paratuberculosis (MAP) in Tanzania.  Fulgence is highly interested to develop his research career in Genomics and Bioinformatics using interdisciplinary approach. His extracurricular activities include athletics, reading the news, and watching soccer.

Molecular Basis of Variation in Susceptibility to Newcastle Disease Virus in Locally Adapted Chickens


ND is a devastating disease of poultry, particularly chicken, and is caused by Newcastle disease virus (NDV). Mortality is high, especially in naïve population. The disease is a major problem of the poultry industry worldwide with significant impact in local chicken production in most developing countries.

Locally adapted African chickens have proven to be an indispensable component of life to rural communities. Local chicken serve as a source of high quality meat and unforeseen expenses (like pocket money) in resource-poor rural families. Production of locally adapted African chickens is highly cost-effective due to low input requirement with scavenging conditions, and thus appropriate for resource poor communities of developing countries (Ahlers et al., 2009). Due to persistent exposure to extremely harsh conditions and pathogens, locally adapted African chickens have evolved crucial ability to adapt and survive.  Furthermore, it has been stipulated that African local chickens may constitute all possible genes including genes responsible for disease resistance by Minga et al. (2004). However, most studies are focused on investigating genetic diversity and population structure of African local chicken ecotypes by using microsatellite markers and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) D-loop region with limited information on its implications in the variations in resistance and susceptibility to NDV infections.

Furthermore, there is limited studies which involve molecular tools with high genomic coverage which would perform genome-wide scan of genomic variations such as single nucleotide polymorphism (SNPS), genomic structural variations (CNVs) and how these genomic variations may be associated with the variability in resistance and susceptibility of locally adapted African chickens to NDV infections. The aim of this project is to investigate to whether there is an association between chicken genomic structural variation and the variation in susceptibility to NDV infection.


By using virulent NDV, embryonated chicken eggs (ECEs) from different chicken ecotypes will be evaluated on variation in susceptibility to NDV infection based on mean death time (MDT) and viral load.  This will establish high and low susceptible cohorts. From the two cohort, Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) will be performed to identify genotypic variation, such as single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and copy number variations (CNVs).   This will enable identification of novel genetic markers that are associated with variations in susceptibility to NDV infection.

The study will identify novel genomic structures (CNVs, SNPs or gene(s)) associated with NDV resistance, which could be used to develop breeding strategies for reduced susceptibility to NDV, and thereby increasing productivity of locally adapted African chickens.


Locally adapted African chickens are highly genetically diverse.  However, there is a dearth of information on the variation in susceptibility to Newcastle Disease Virus (NDV) of locally adapted African chicken ecotypes. This research will characterize this variation and investigate if there is an association between chicken genomic structural variants and variation in susceptibility to NDV infection.

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