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Poult Sci. 2013 Feb;92(2):364-9. doi: 10.3382/ps.2012-02496.

Survival of Campylobacter jejuni in naturally and artificially contaminated laying hen feces.

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Institute for Animal Hygiene, Animal Welfare and Farm Animal Behavior, University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, Foundation, Bünteweg 17p, 30559 Hannover, Germany.


Infected laying hens regularly excrete large amounts of Campylobacter jejuni with their feces, which represent a reservoir of infection within the flock and for animals in the region. However, the knowledge about survival times of C. jejuni in these feces is still scarce. Therefore, orienting laboratory experiments were carried out under controlled conditions to estimate the survival times of C. jejuni both in artificially and naturally contaminated laying hen feces. In 6 different laying hen flocks (3 Campylobacter-free and 3 Campylobacter-positive flocks), fresh excreta were randomly collected and pooled in 20-g samples per flock. In the laboratory, each of the 3 pooled samples from the Campylobacter-free barns were homogenized and mixed with 10 mL of a freshly prepared C. jejuni suspension (3 × 10(8) cfu/mL). The other 3 samples were homogenized only. The 6 samples were stored at 20 ± 1°C and 40 to 60% RH in 2 different incubators. Specimens of 2 g were taken from all 6 samples 1 h after storage and daily at the same time during the next 10 consecutive days and investigated on culturable C. jejuni. The survival times of culturable C. jejuni ranged from 72 to 96 h in artificially inoculated feces and varied from 120 to 144 h in naturally colonized flocks. The flaA typing by RFLP confirmed that the isolates from the artificially contaminated feces were identical with the added strain. A total of 5 different flaA types were identified from the naturally contaminated feces, and survival of these isolates was dependent on flaA type. The demonstrated survival times indicate that contaminated fresh feces are an important reservoir of C. jejuni, representing a permanent source of infection over at least 6 d after excretion. It shows the considerable potential of fresh feces in transmitting the agent within and between flocks during that period. This 6-d span should be considered when poultry manure is applied to land as organic fertilizer.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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