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Campylobacter Infection

Extracted From:
A Pocket Guide to
Poultry Health
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By Paul McMullin
© 2004
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Campylobacter spp. are bacteria that commonly infect a broad range of livestock species, pets and wild animals. In poultry they tend to multiply in large numbers in the hindgut, principally in the caecae. Campylobacters are a significant cause of enteritis in man. Infected poultry are a potential reservoir of this zoonosis.

Campylobacter jejuni is the commonest species found in poultry. All campylobacters are delicate organisms that survive for relatively short periods outside the host unless protected by organic material, biofilm or engulfed by protozoa.

Campylobacter jejuni infection is not currently considered to be pathogenic in poultry though a Campylobacter-like organism is considered to be the cause of 'Vibrionic Hepatitis'.

There are indications that plantar pododermatitis, carcase quality and litter quality are better on farms which tend to have Campylobacter-negative stock. The reason for this is unclear. It may be that management that favours dry litter reduces the risk of infection and/or transmission within the flock.

There is an annual cycle with increased risk of infection in the summer months in some countries.


  • None.

Post-mortem lesions

  • None.


Isolation of the organism from caecal contents, cloacal swabs or composite faeces. The organism is sensitive to air so swabs should be collected into transport medium and other samples placed in airtight containers with minimal airspace. Samples should be tested as quickly as possible after collection.


Not required on clinical grounds.


In principle, housed poultry can be maintained free of Campylobacter infection by consistent application of excellent biosecurity. Key aspects of this include effective sanitation of drinking water, sourcing of water from high quality supplies, avoidance of contact with pets and other farmed species, good hand hygiene by stockmen, and changing of overalls and boots on entering bird areas.

In practice the success of this will also depend upon the degree of environmental contamination by the organism. For this reason it may be difficult to stop the spread of infection between houses once it becomes established in one house.

Many infections are introduced during thinning or other forms of partial depopulation. Insects and rodents may act as a means of transfer of the infection from the general environment into the poultry buildings.

Research is ongoing on the development of vaccines, phage treatments and competitive exclusion approaches, as well as processing plant technologies to reduce carcase contamination.

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