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Avian Dis. 2002 Jul-Sep;46(3):535-41.

Identification of a new source of Campylobacter contamination in poultry: transmission from breeder hens to broiler chickens.

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Poultry Microbiological Safety Research Unit, United States Department of Agriculture, Russell Research Center, Athens, GA 30605, USA.


Campylobacter jejuni, a foodborne pathogen closely associated with market poultry, is considered to be the most frequent agent of human gastroenteritis in the United States. The pathways involved in the contamination of poultry flocks, vertical transmission and/or horizontal transmission, are unclear. In this study, Campylobacter isolates from two independent commercial broiler breeder flocks, as well as from their respective progeny, were characterized and compared by PstI ribotype analysis and by DNA sequence analysis of the short variable region (SVR) of the flaA gene (flaA SVR). Campylobacter isolates originating from one set of breeder hens and the feces from their respective progeny demonstrated identical ribotype patterns as well as identical flaA SVR DNA sequences, thereby suggesting that these isolates were clonal in origin. Ribotype analysis of Campylobacter isolates from the second set of breeder hens and processed carcasses from their offspring resulted in two patterns. Sequence analysis placed these isolates into two closely related groups and one distant group, similar to the ribotype analysis. These results demonstrate that Campylobacter isolates from commercial broiler breeder flocks and from the respective broiler progeny may be of clonal origin and that breeder hens can serve as a source for Campylobacter contamination in poultry flocks.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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