Campylobacter and litter management

Sufficient downtime between flocks can prevent cross-contamination from Campylobacter
calendar icon 21 November 2022
clock icon 2 minute read

Campylobacter is an important foodborne pathogen affecting the poultry industry and causes over 96 million cases per year worldwide. This organism is highly associated with poultry products, therefore efforts to control Campylobacter during production are necessary, said Matthew Bailey of Auburn University, USA, during the 2022 World’s Poultry Congress.

Because broiler farms typically reuse litter for multiple flocks, there is potential for cross-contamination with Campylobacter from one flock to another. Bailey’s research tried to determine if reusing litter leads to Campylobacter cross-contamination, and determine the effects of common litter treatments on the bacteria.

Two flocks of birds were raised in 25 pens up to 42 days for this experiment. For the first flock, birds were inoculated with 3 marker strains of Campylobacter jejuni (ciprofloxacin resistant) on day 7 and allowed to naturally contaminate fresh litter by fecal shedding. One set of pens was left uninoculated to serve as a negative control, said Bailey.

After flock 1 was terminated, a down-time of 19 days was implemented, and prior to placement of the second flock, different litter treatments were applied.

The treatments included: Uninoculated, fresh litter; untreated reused litter; composted reused litter; reused litter treated with sodium bisulfate; and reused litter composted and treated with sodium bisulfate, he said.

The second flock of birds were then placed on the treated, reused litter. For both flocks of birds, on days 7, 14, 21, 28, and 42, litter samples from each pen were collected by boot swab and five ceca samples per pen were collected. Samples were enriched and analyzed for C. jejuni using the 3M Molecular Detection System, and positive samples were confirmed by streaking onto Campy Cefex plates supplemented with 1mg/L ciprofloxacin, Bailey noted.

For flock 1, overall C. jejuni prevalence in ceca samples was 0% at day 7 (before inoculation) and reached 94.4% by day 42. Prevalence in boot swabs was also 0% at day 7 and reached 100% by day 42, he said.

For flock 2, no C. jejuni was detected in any samples, said Bailey.

These results indicate that reusing litter is not a potential source for C. jejuni cross-contamination when a down-time of 19 days is applied between flocks, he concluded.

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