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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2001 Jun;67(6):2636-40.

Changes in the carriage of Campylobacter strains by poultry carcasses during processing in abattoirs.

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  • 1Veterinary Laboratories Agency (Weybridge), New Haw, Surrey KT15 3BN, United Kingdom.


The recent development of simple, rapid genotyping techniques for Campylobacter species has enabled investigation of the determinative epidemiology of these organisms in a variety of situations. In this study we have used the technique of fla typing (PCR-restriction fragment length polymorphism analysis of the flaA and flaB genes) to identify the sources of strains contaminating the carcasses of five campylobacter-positive and two campylobacter-negative broiler flocks during abattoir processing. The results confirmed that, in the United Kingdom, individual broiler flocks are colonized by a limited number of subtypes of Campylobacter jejuni or C. coli. In some but not all cases, the same subtypes, isolated from the ceca, contaminated the end product as observed in carcass washes. However, the culture methodology, i.e, use of direct plating or enrichment, affected this subtype distribution. Moreover, the number of isolates analyzed per sample was limited. fla typing also indicated that some campylobacter subtypes survive poultry processing better than others. The extent of resistance to the environmental stresses during processing varied between strains. The more robust subtypes appeared to contaminate the abattoir environment, surviving through carcass chilling, and even carrying over onto subsequent flocks. From these studies it is confirmed that some campylobacter-negative flocks reach the abattoir but the carcasses from such flocks are rapidly contaminated by various campylobacter subtypes during processing. However, only some of these contaminating subtypes appeared to survive processing. The sources of this contamination are not clear, but in both negative flocks, campylobacters of the same subtypes as those recovered from the carcasses were isolated from the crates used to transport the birds. In one case, this crate contamination was shown to be present before the birds were loaded.

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