The term ‘campylobacteria’ has been used to refer to the genera Campylobacter, Helicobacter, Arcobacter, Lawsonia and Anaerobiospirillum, in light of their morphological, physiological and ecological similarities rather than phylogenetic relationships (On 1996). Several species from this group of bacteria affect human and animal health. For example, Campylobacter jejuni ssp. jejuni is the major cause of bacterial diarrhea in humans, Campylobacter fetus ssp. fetus causes bovine abortion, Helicobacter pylori is the causative agent for gastritis and gastric lymphoma in humans, and Anaerobiospirillum succiniciproducens can cause septicemia in immunocompromized patients (Skirrow 1994; Altekruse et al. 1999).
Epidemiological knowledge is scarce for most species of campylobacteria, but generally they seem to have zoonotic potential. Several species have been isolated both from humans and animal hosts, e.g. Camp. jejuni ssp. jejuni, Campylobacter coli, Campylobacter lari, Camp. fetus ssp. fetus, Campylobacter upsaliensis, Arcobacter butzleri, Arcobacter cryaerophilus, H. pylori, Helicobacter pullorum, Helicobacter cinaedi and An. succiniciproducens (Skirrow 1994; On 1996). The occurrence of campylobacteria in wild animals is, however, probably understated, as few attempts of identifying animal reservoirs have been conducted. By far most attention has been paid to Camp. jejuni, particularly the occurrence of this bacterium in wild birds and the subsequent public health ramifications (Hubalek 1994; Broman et al. 2002; Waldenström et al. 2002).
We have previously studied the occurrence and host species distribution of thermophilic Campylobacter species in migrating birds in Sweden, where a high prevalence of Camp. lari and Camp. jejuni ssp. jejuni was found in several bird species, notably thrushes and shorebirds (Waldenström et al. 2002; Broman et al. 2004). Here, we investigate these aspects during the birds’ breeding season. We sampled breeding shorebirds (of the Scolopacidae and Charadriidae families) and geese (family Anseridae) stopping over at some grazed coastal meadows on the island of Gotland, SE Sweden. Additional samples were collected from cattle in one of the pastures. Isolates were identified through a stratified polyphasic approach that used Amplified Fragment Length Polymorphism (AFLP) profiling as the front-line identification and genotyping method, the efficacy of which for both purposes is well documented (On and Harrington 2000). Species identifications were supported by extensive phenotypic analysis and 16S rRNA gene sequence comparisons where prudent. Our findings are presented from both epidemiological and ecological perspectives.