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J Clin Microbiol. 2006 Feb;44(2):406-12.

Application of pulsed-field gel electrophoresis to identify potential outbreaks of campylobacteriosis in New Zealand.

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Institute of Environmental Science & Research Limited, Christchurch Science Centre, P.O. Box 29-181, Christchurch, New Zealand.


Since 2002, New Zealand's incidence of campylobacteriosis has exceeded 300 cases per 100,000 people per annum. To evaluate genetic variation in human isolates, 183 Campylobacter isolates were collected from a single clinical laboratory in Christchurch: 77 during an 8-week period in spring, and the rest 3 months later over a second 8-week period in autumn. Isolates were identified to the species level and subtyped using Penner serotyping (Campylobacter jejuni only) and pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) using both SmaI and KpnI. Approximately two-thirds of the isolates could be grouped into clusters of between 2 and 26 isolates with indistinguishable SmaI and KpnI patterns. Less than 10% of the isolates were of the same type between the two sampling periods. The epidemiological relevance of the PFGE clusters was supported by temporal clustering, some spatial clustering, and some statistically significant demographic similarities among cases in a cluster. Conversely, patient cases yielding isolates which did not cluster with isolates from other cases were more likely to report recent overseas travel and less likely to live within larger urban centers. To identify whether these clusters actually represent common-source outbreaks, however, would require the detailed, rapid, and reiterative epidemiological investigation of cases within a PFGE cluster. The combined and timely application of subtyping and epidemiological investigation would appear to be a promising strategy for understanding campylobacteriosis in New Zealand.

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