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Environ Microbiol. 2009 Jan;11(1):258-67. doi: 10.1111/j.1462-2920.2008.01773.x. Epub 2008 Sep 29.

Dynamics of Campylobacter colonization of a natural host, Sturnus vulgaris (European starling).

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The Peter Medawar Building for Pathogen Research, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford, OX1 3SY, UK.


Wild European Starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) shed Campylobacter at high rates, suggesting that they may be a source of human and farm animal infection. A survey of Campylobacter shedding of 957 wild starlings was undertaken by culture of faecal specimens and genetic analysis of the campylobacters isolated: shedding rates were 30.6% for Campylobacter jejuni, 0.6% for C. coli and 6.3% for C. lari. Genotyping by multilocus sequence typing (MLST) and antigen sequence typing established that these bacteria were distinct from poultry or human disease isolates with the ST-177 and ST-682 clonal complexes possibly representing starling-adapted genotypes. There was seasonal variation in both shedding rate and genotypic diversity, both exhibiting a maximum during the late spring/early summer. Host age also affected Campylobacter shedding, which was higher in younger birds, and turnover was rapid with no evidence of cross-immunity among Campylobacter species or genotypes. In nestlings, C. jejuni shedding was evident from 9 days of age but siblings were not readily co-infected. The dynamics of Campylobacter infection of starlings differed from that observed in commercial poultry and consequently there was no evidence that wild starlings represent a major source of Campylobacter infections of food animals or humans.

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