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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.

Original publication




Journal article


Environ Microbiol

Publication Date





258 - 267


Animals, Bacterial Typing Techniques, Campylobacter, Cluster Analysis, DNA Fingerprinting, DNA, Bacterial, Feces, Genetic Variation, Genotype, Prevalence, Seasons, Sequence Analysis, DNA, Starlings