Campylobacter genotypes from poultry transportation crates indicate a source of contamination and transmission.
Hastings R., Colles FM., McCarthy ND., Maiden MCJ., Sheppard SK.
AIMS: Crates used to transport live poultry can be contaminated with Campylobacter, despite periodic sanitization, and are potential vectors for transmission between flocks. We investigated the microbial contamination of standard and silver ion containing crates in normal use and the genetic structure of associated Campylobacter populations. METHODS AND RESULTS: Bacteria from crates were enumerated by appropriate culture techniques, and multilocus sequence typing (MLST) was used to determine the genetic structure of Campylobacters isolated from standard and silver ion containing crates. Compared to standard crates, counts of bacteria, including Campylobacter, were consistently lower on silver ion containing crates throughout the decontamination process. In total, 16 different sequence types were identified from 89 Campylobacter jejuni isolates from crates. These were attributed to putative source population (chicken, cattle, sheep, the environment, wild bird) using the population genetic model, structure. Most (89%) were attributed to chicken, with 22% attribution to live chicken and 78% to retail poultry meat. MLST revealed a progressive shift in allele frequencies through the crate decontamination process. Campylobacter on crates survived for at least 3 h after sanitization, a period of time equivalent to the journey from the processing plant to the majority of farms in the catchment, showing the potential for involvement of crates in transmission. CONCLUSIONS: Inclusion of a silver ion biocide in poultry transportation crates to levels demonstrating acceptable antibacterial activity in vitro reduces the level of bacterial contamination during normal crate use compared to standard crates. Molecular analysis of Campylobacter isolates indicated a change in genetic structure of the population with respect to the poultry-processing plant sanitization practice. SIGNIFICANCE AND IMPACT OF THE STUDY: The application of a sustainable antimicrobial to components of poultry processing may contribute to reducing the levels of Campylobacter circulating in poultry.