Analysis of reservoir sources of Campylobacter isolates to free-range broilers in Denmark

Brian Lassen*, Nao Takeuchi-Storm, Clémentine Henri, Tine Hald, Marianne Sandberg, Johanne Ellis-Iversen

*Corresponding author for this work

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Campylobacter is a common cause of food poisoning in many countries, with broilers being the main source. Organic and free-range broilers are more frequently Campylobacter-positive than conventionally raised broilers and may constitute a higher risk for human infections. Organic and free-range broilers may get exposed to Campylobacter from environmental reservoirs and livestock farms, but the relative importance of these sources is unknown. The aim of the study was to describe similarities and differences between the genetic diversity of the Campylobacter isolates collected from free-range/organic broilers with those isolated from conventional broilers and other animal hosts (cattle, pigs, and dogs) in Denmark to make inferences about the reservoir sources of Campylobacter to free-range broilers.

The applied aggregated surveillance data consisted of sequenced Campylobacter isolates sampled in 2015-2017 and 2018-2021. The data included 1102 isolates from free-range (n=209), conventional broilers (n=577), cattle (n=261), pigs (n=30), and dogs (n=25). The isolates were cultivated from either fecal material (n=434), food matrices (n=569) or of non-disclosed origin (n=99). Campylobacter jejuni (94.5%) dominated and subtyping analysis found 170 different sequence types (STs) grouped into 75 clonal complexes (CCs). The results suggest that CC-21 and CC-45 are the most frequent CC's found in broilers. The relationship between the CC's in the investigated sources showed that the different CC's were shared by most of the animals, but not pigs. The ST-profiles of free-range broilers were most similar to that of conventional broilers, dogs and cattle, in that order. The similarity was stronger between conventional broilers and cattle than between conventional and free-range broilers. The results suggest that cattle may be a plausible reservoir of C. jejuni for conventional and free-range broilers, and that conventional broilers are a possible source for free-range broilers or reflect a dominance of isolates adapted to the same host environment.

Aggregated data provided valuable insight into the epidemiology of Campylobacter sources for free-range broilers, but time-limited sampling of isolates from different sources within a targeted area would hold a higher predictive value.
Original languageEnglish
Article number103025
JournalPoultry Science
Issue number11
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • One-health
  • Source attribution
  • Campylobacter
  • Broiler
  • Epidemiology


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