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Poult Sci. 2006 Mar;85(3):556-62.

Enumeration and identity of Campylobacter spp. in Italian broilers.

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Department of Food Science, Alma Mater Studiorum-University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy.


Transmission of Campylobacter to humans has been prominently associated with mishandling or improperly preparing contaminated poultry carcasses. The number of organisms per carcass represents an important measure of human exposure to the agent. Therefore, we wished to estimate this public exposure over 1 yr among Italian broiler carcasses. We sampled 213 broiler carcasses from rinse water samples collected from a single slaughterhouse. Groups of carcasses had mean processed weights ranging from 1.2 to 2.7 kg. These were produced from 22 commercial broiler chicken flocks collected from 12 different farms, 3 of which were seasonally tested. Carcasses were rinsed with sterile water, and the rinse suspension was then serially diluted and spread-plated directly onto Campy-Cefex agar plates. One to 5 typical Campylobacter colonies per plate were identified by polymerase chain reaction as Campylobacter thermo-tolerant species. The overall estimated mean count per carcass in our study was 5.16 +/- 0.80 log10 cfu. This value increased in summer and autumn, as well as on carcasses collected from farms located > 100 km far from the slaughterhouse. A total of 678 Campylobacter colonies were identified by polymerase chain reaction. The majority of isolates were classified as Campylobacter jejuni (49.2%) or Campylobacter coli (47.5%). The overall number of C. jejuni was significantly higher on 1) carcasses weighing > 2 kg, 2) carcasses belonging to flocks with > 10,000 birds, and 3) carcasses collected from farms located > 100 km from the slaughterhouse. Moreover, among farms tested seasonally, C. jejuni was significantly greater than C. coli in winter. These data provide the first results of a continuing survey on Campylobacter loads and species identification from Italian broiler carcasses and represents an important baseline to estimate the human exposure to Campylobacter in Italy.

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