Comparison of Campylobacter populations in wild geese with those in starlings and free-range poultry on the same farm.
Colles FM., Dingle KE., Cody AJ., Maiden MCJ.
Wild geese are a potential source of Campylobacter infection for humans and farm animals and have been implicated in at least two large waterborne disease outbreaks. There have been few investigations into the population biology of Campylobacter in geese, carriage rates are reported to vary (0 to 100%), and no genetic characterization of isolates has been performed. Fecal samples collected from wild geese in Oxfordshire, United Kingdom, were culture positive for C. jejuni (50.2%) and C. coli (0.3%). The C. jejuni (n = 166) isolates were characterized by using multilocus sequence typing and were compared with isolates collected from free-range broiler chickens and wild starlings sampled at the same location. A total of 38 STs, six clonal complexes, and 23 flaA SVR nucleotide STs were identified. The ST-21 and ST-45 complexes (5.4% of isolates) were the only complexes to be identified among isolates from the geese and the other bird species sampled in the same location. These clonal complexes were also identified among human disease isolates collected in the same health care region. The results indicate that large numbers of wild geese carry Campylobacter; however, there was limited mixing of Campylobacter populations among the different sources examined, and the host source could be predicted with high probability from the allelic profile of a C. jejuni isolate. In conclusion, genotypes of C. jejuni isolated from geese are highly host specific, and a comparison with isolates from Oxfordshire cases of human disease revealed that while geese cannot be excluded as a source of infection for humans and farm animals, their contribution is likely to be minor.