A number of intervention strategies against Campylobacter contaminated poultry focus on post-slaughter reduction of the number of cells, emphasizing the need for rapid and reliable quantitative detection of only viable Campylobacter. We present a new and rapid quantitative approach for enumeration of foodborne Campylobacter, combining real-time PCR (Q-PCR) with a simple propidium monoazide (PMA) sample treatment. In less than 3 hours, this method generates a signal from only viable and viable but non-culturable (VBNC) Campylobacter with an intact membrane. The method performance was evaluated by assessing the contribution to variability from individual chicken carcass rinse matrices, species of Campylobacter, and the efficiency of DNA extraction with differing cell inputs. The method was compared with culture-based enumeration on 50 naturally infected chickens. The cell contents correlated with Ct-values (R(2) = 0.993), with a quantification range from 1x10(2)-1x10(7) CFU/ml. The correlation between the Campylobacter counts obtained by PMA-PCR and culture on naturally contaminated chickens was high (R(2) = 0.844). The amplification efficiency of the Q-PCR method was not affected by chicken rinse matrix or by species of Campylobacter. No Q-PCR signals were obtained from artificially inoculated chicken rinse when PMA sample treatment was applied. In conclusion, this study presents a rapid tool for producing reliable quantitative data on viable Campylobacter in chicken carcass rinse. The proposed method does not detect DNA from dead Campylobacter, but recognises the infectious potential of the VBNC state, and is thereby able to assess the effect of control strategies, and provide trustworthy data for risk assessment.
- Real-time PCR
- Propidium monoazide