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J Appl Microbiol. 2004;97(2):410-20.

Chronic shedding of Campylobacter species in beef cattle.

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Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Research Centre, Lethbridge, Canada.



To determine the prevalence of chronic shedding of Campylobacter species by beef cattle, a longitudinal study of shedding patterns was conducted in a cohort of 60 beef steers over a 4-month period.


Steers were maintained in a simulated feedlot setting but individually in pens to minimize transmission among animals. At each collection time, campylobacters in faeces were detected using conventional PCR. In addition, quantities of Campylobacter jejuni and C. lanienae in faeces were measured using real-time quantitative (RTQ) PCR. All of the steers tested shed Campylobacter species during the course of the study, and overall, 90% of the 299 samples tested were positive for Campylobacter DNA. The majority of the animals (86%) shed campylobacters at >/=4 sample times. The most prevalent taxon detected in bovine faeces was C. lanienae (56% of samples) followed by C. jejuni (13%), C. hyointestinalis (8%), and C. fetus (2%). No C. coli was detected, and 13% of the faecal samples contained two or more of the above species. Seven (12%) and 34 (57%) animals shed C. jejuni and C. lanienae at >/=3 sample times, respectively. For both C. lanienae and C. jejuni, a substantial number of cells were detected in faeces using RTQ-PCR; 27% of the samples positive for C. jejuni contained populations >10(4) cells g(-1) (maximum of 5 x 10(5) cells g(-1)), and 44% of samples positive for C. lanienae possessed populations >10(6) cells g(-1) (maximum of 4 x 10(8) cells g(-1)). A significant correlation was observed between shedding of C. lanienae and the severity of liver abscesses. In 27% of the samples, an amplicon was obtained for genus-specific but not for the species-specific primers. Sequencing of the partial 16S rRNA gene suggested the presence of at least two undescribed Campylobacter species but this has yet to be confirmed.


A high percentage of feedlot cattle shed large quantities of Campylobacter species in their faeces over a protracted period of time (ca 112 days).


This is the first study of longitudinal shedding patterns of campylobacters in beef cattle using PCR-detection methods. In addition, this is the first use of RTQ-PCR to directly quantify C. jejuni or C. lanienae in faeces. The results of the study show that a large number of cattle (>85%) chronically shed campylobacters in feedlots.

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