Isolation of Campylobacter from Feral Swine (Sus scrofa) on the Ranch Associated with the 2006 Escherichia coli O157:H7 Spinach Outbreak Investigation in California


  • This work was performed at both institutions.

Michele Jay-Russell. Western Institute for Food Safety and Security, One Shields Avenue, University of California, Davis, CA 95616, USA. Tel.: 530 757 5756; Fax: 530 297 6304; E-mail:


We report the isolation of Campylobacter species from the same population of feral swine that was investigated in San Benito County, California, during the 2006 spinach-related Escherichia coli O157:H7 outbreak. This is the first survey of Campylobacter in a free-ranging feral swine population in the United States. Campylobacter species were cultured from buccal and rectal-anal swabs, colonic faeces and tonsils using a combination of selective enrichment and antibiotic-free membrane filtration methods. Matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization–time of flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOF-MS, Bruker Daltonics, Inc., Billerica, MA, USA) was used to identify species followed by confirmatory multiplex PCR or 16S rRNA sequencing. Genetic relatedness of Campylobacter jejuni and Campylobacter coli strains was determined by multilocus sequence typing (MLST) and porA allele sequencing. Altogether, 12 (40%) of 30 feral swine gastrointestinal and oral cavity specimens were positive, and six species were isolated: Campylobacter coli, Campylobacter fetus, Campylobacter hyointestinalsis, Campylobacter jejuni, Campylobacter lanienae and Campylobacter sputorum. Campylobacter jejuni subtypes were closely related to MLST sequence type 21 (ST-21) and had identical porA sequences. Campylobacter coli subtypes were unrelated to isolates in the pubMLST/porA database. This feral swine population lived in close association with a ‘grassfed’ beef cattle herd adjacent to spinach and other leafy green row crop fields. The findings underscore the importance of protecting raw vegetable crops from faecal contamination by wild or feral animals. The study also illustrates a potential risk of Campylobacter exposure for hunters during handling and processing of wild swine meat.