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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2008 Jan;74(2):383-90. Epub 2007 Dec 7.

Has retail chicken played a role in the decline of human campylobacteriosis?

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  • 1School of Biological Sciences, Cruickshank Building, St. Machar Drive, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, United Kingdom.


Between 2001 and 2006, the incidence of human Campylobacter infections decreased by 10 and 27% in Scotland and the Grampian region of Scotland, respectively. Contemporaneous collection and analyses of human and retail-chicken isolates from Grampian were carried out over a 10-week period in 2001 and again in 2006 in order to determine whether the fall in the incidence of human infections was related to the retail-chicken exposure route. Rates of carriage of Campylobacter on chicken carcasses from retail outlets in Grampian in 2001 and 2006 were estimated. Chicken-derived Campylobacter isolates from 2001 (n = 84) and 2006 (n = 105) and human-derived isolates from patients with clinical cases of infection in 2001 (n = 172) and 2006 (n = 119) were typed by multilocus sequence typing. We found no evidence for statistically significant changes in prevalence and counts per carcass. We found by rarefaction that although the degree of diversity in humans tended to be higher than that in chickens, these differences were not significant. The genetic distance between chicken and human isolates from 2001 according to sequence type, clonal complex (CC), or allele composition was not significant, whereas the distances between 2006 isolates at the CC and allele levels were significant. This difference was attributable to a lower proportion of CC-21's being found in retail-chicken isolates from 2006 than in chicken isolates from 2001. We conclude that human exposure to Campylobacter via retail chicken is important and that changes in the population structure of campylobacters in this reservoir need to be taken into account in investigating human infection.

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