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Keywords:

  • Campylobacter infection;
  • campylobacteria;
  • epidemiology;
  • Helicobacter;
  • urease-positive thermophilic Campylobacter

Abstract

Aims:  To analyse the occurrence and host species distribution of campylobacteria species in shorebirds, geese and cattle on grazed coastal meadows in Sweden.

Methods and Results:  Species identification was performed through a polyphasic approach, incorporating Amplified Fragment Length Polymorphism (AFLP) profiling, 16S RNA gene sequence analysis together with extensive phenotypic characterization. From 247 sampled birds and 71 cattle, we retrieved 113 urease positive thermophilic Campylobacter (UPTC) and 16 Campylobacter jejuni ssp. jejuni isolates. Furthermore, 18 isolates of Helicobacter canadensis, and five isolates that potentially represent a new genus of micro-aerophilic, spiral and Gram-negative bacteria were isolated. The distribution of bacterial species on hosts was uneven: all H. canadensis isolates were retrieved from geese, while all but one of the Campylobacter lari UPTC isolates were found in shorebirds. AFLP type distribution of Camp. lari UPTC isolates among individual, resampled and breeding-paired Redshank birds generally indicated a constant shift in strain populations over time and absence of geographical clustering.

Conclusions:  The large number of isolated campylobacteria, including species that are zoonotic enteropathogens, indicates that these wild birds potentially may serve as reservoirs of human infections. However, despite a common environment, the different host species largely carried their own campylobacteria populations, indicating that cross-species transmission is rare.

Significance and Impact of the Study:  Our study is one of few that provide data on the occurrence of campylobacteria in wild animals, adding information on the ecology and epidemiology of micro-organisms that are of public health concern.