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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2006 Jan;72(1):645-52.

Sources of Campylobacter spp. colonizing housed broiler flocks during rearing.

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  • 1Food Microbiology Collaborating Unit, Health Protection Agency (HPA), University of Bristol, Langford, Bristol BS40 5DU, United Kingdom.


The study aimed to identify sources of campylobacter in 10 housed broiler flocks from three United Kingdom poultry companies. Samples from (i) the breeder flocks, which supplied the broilers, (ii) cleaned and disinfected houses prior to chick placement, (iii) the chickens, and (iv) the environments inside and outside the broiler houses during rearing were examined. Samples were collected at frequent intervals and examined for Campylobacter spp. Characterization of the isolates using multilocus sequence typing (MLST), serotyping, phage typing, and flaA restriction fragment length polymorphism typing was performed. Seven flocks became colonized during the growing period. Campylobacter spp. were detected in the environment surrounding the broiler house, prior to as well as during flock colonization, for six of these flocks. On two occasions, isolates detected in a puddle just prior to the birds being placed were indistinguishable from those colonizing the birds. Once flocks were colonized, indistinguishable strains of campylobacter were found in the feed and water and in the air of the broiler house. Campylobacter spp. were also detected in the air up to 30 m downstream of the broiler house, which raises the issue of the role of airborne transmission in the spread of campylobacter. At any time during rearing, broiler flocks were colonized by only one or two types determined by MLST but these changed, with some strains superseding others. In conclusion, the study provided strong evidence for the environment as a source of campylobacters colonizing housed broiler flocks. It also demonstrated colonization by successive campylobacter types determined by MLST during the life of a flock.

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