A newly published study by researchers at the Institute for Infection and Global Health at the University of Liverpool in the UK has revealed that the foodborne pathogen Campylobacter jejuni can cause disease in some breeds of poultry as well as in humans.
Previously it was thought that Campylobacter jejuni was part of the normal microbiota of poultry, which is recognised as the main reservoir for human infection. However, the new study discovered that artificially infecting four different breeds of commercial broiler chickens produced differences in immune response and inflammation, with one breed suffering damage to the gut mucosa and developing diarrhoea. The researchers concluded that C. jejuni is not just a harmless commensal in chickens.
The findings showed that there was no difference between breeds in the numbers of the bacteria present in the gut, but there was a big difference in the effect on the health of the birds. This suggests that the breed of bird has little effect on human food safety, but does impact broiler chicken welfare.
Lead researcher Paul Wigley highlighted a potentially useful implication of the findings, “On the positive side, we now know that chickens produce a robust immune response to infection, which in the longer term may allow us to develop vaccines.”
The study is published in the open access journal mBio® and can be found in full here.