Finnish cattle as reservoir of Campylobacter spp.

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Title: Finnish cattle as reservoir of Campylobacter spp.
Author: Hakkinen, Marjaana
Date: 2011-02-07
Belongs to series: Evira Research Reports 2/2010
ISBN: 978-952-225-076-6 (print)
978-952-225-077-3 (pdf)
ISSN: 1796-4660 (print)
1797-2981 (pdf)
Abstract: The reported incidence of human campylobacteriosis in Finland is higher than in most other European countries. A high annual percentage of sporadic infections is of foreign origin, although a notable proportion of summer infections is domestically acquired. While chickens appear to be a major source of campylobacters for humans in most countries, the prevalence of campylobacters is very low in chicken slaughter batches in Finland. Data on other potential animal reservoirs of human pathogenic campylobacters in Finland are scarce. Consequently, this study aimed to investigate the status of Finnish cattle as a potential source of thermophilic Campylobacter spp. and antibiotic-resistant Campylobacter jejuni for human sporadic campylobacter infections of domestic origin. A survey of the prevalence of thermophilic Campylobacter spp. in Finnish cattle studied bovine rectal faecal samples (n=952) and carcass surface samples (n=948) from twelve Finnish slaughterhouses from January to December 2003. The total prevalence of Campylobacter spp. in faecal samples was 31.1%, and in carcass samples 3.5%. Campylobacter jejuni, the most common species, was present in 19.5% of faecal samples and in 3.1% of carcasses. In addition to thermophilic Campylobacter spp., C. hyointestinalis ssp. hyointestinalis was present in bovine samples. The prevalence of campylobacters was higher among beef cattle than among dairy cattle. Using the enrichment method, the number of positive faecal samples was 7.5 times higher than that obtained by direct plating. The predominant serotypes of faecal C. jejuni, determined by serotyping with a set of 25 commercial antisera for heat-stable antigens (Penner), were Pen2 and Pen4-complex, which covered 52% of the samples. Genotyping with pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) using SmaI restriction yielded a high diversity of C. jejuni subtypes in cattle. Determining the minimum inhibitory concentrations of ampicillin, enrofloxacin, erythromycin, gentamicin, nalidixic acid, and oxytetracycline among bovine C. jejuni isolates using a commercial broth microdilution method yielded 9% of isolates resistant to at least one of the antimicrobials examined. No multiresistant isolates were found among the bovine C. jejuni strains. The study of the shedding patterns of Campylobacter spp. among three Finnish dairy cattle herds included the examination of fresh faecal samples and tank milk samples taken five times, as well as samples from drinking troughs taken once during the one-year study. The semiquantitative enrichment method detected C. jejuni in 169 of the 340 faecal samples, mostly at low levels. In addition, C. jejuni was present in one drinking trough sample. The prevalence between herds and sampling occasions varied widely. PFGE, using SmaI as restriction enzyme, identified only a few subtypes in each herd. In two 2 of the herds, two subtypes persisted throughout the sampling. Individual animals presented various shedding patterns during the study. Comparison of C. jejuni isolates from humans, chickens and cattle included the design of primers for four new genetic markers selected from completely sequenced C. jejuni genomes 81-176, RM1221 and NCTC 11168, and the PCR examination of domestic human isolates from southern Finland in 1996, 2002 and 2003 (n=309), chicken isolates from 2003, 2006 and 2007 (n=205), and bovine isolates from 2003 (n=131). The results revealed that bovine isolates differed significantly from human and chicken isolates. In particular, the - glutamyl transpeptidase gene was uncommon among bovine isolates. The PFGE genotyping of C. jejuni isolates, using SmaI and KpnI restriction enzymes, included a geographically representative collection of isolates from domestic sporadic human infections, chicken slaughter batches, and cattle faeces and carcasses during the seasonal peak of campylobacteriosis in the summer of 2003. The study determined that 55.4% of human isolates were indistinguishable from those of chickens and cattle. Temporal association between isolates from humans and chickens was possible in 31.4% of human infections. Approximately 19% of the human infections may have been associated with cattle. However, isolates from bovine carcasses and human cases represented different PFGE subtypes. In conclusion, this study suggests that Finnish cattle is a notable reservoir of C. jejuni, the most important Campylobacter sp. in human enteric infections. Although the concentration of these organisms in bovine faeces appeared to be low, excretion can be persistent. The genetic diversity and presence or absence of marker genes support previous suggestions of host-adapted C. jejuni strains, and may indicate variations in virulence between strains from different hosts. In addition to chickens, Finnish cattle appeared to be an important reservoir and possible source of C. jejuni in domestic sporadic human infections. However, sources of campylobacters may differ between rural and urban areas in Finland, and in general, the transmission of C. jejuni of bovine origin probably occurs via other routes than food.

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