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The occurrence and species distribution of thermophilic Campylobacter was investigated in organic outdoor pigs. An increased exposure of outdoor pigs to C jejuni from the environment may cause a shift from a normal dominance of C coli to more C jejuni, which may imply a concern of reduced food safety. Bacteriological methods for determination of Campylobacter excretion level were combined with colony-blot hybridization and real-time PCR for specific detection of C. jejuni in pigs. Campylobacter was isolated from pigs (n = 47), paddock environment (n = 126) and wildlife (n = 44), identified to species by real-time PCR and sub-typed by serotyping (Penner) and pulse-field gel electrophorsis (PFGE) genotyping. All pigs excreted Campylobacter (10(3)-10(7) CFU g(-1) faeces) from the age of 8-13-weeks old. C jejuni was found in 29% of pigs in three consecutive trials and always in minority to C. coli (0.3-46%). C. jejuni and C coli were isolated from 10% and 29% of the environmental samples, respectively, while crow-birds and rats harboured C. jejuni. Individual pigs hosted several strains (up to nine serotypes). The paddock environment was contaminated with C. coli serotypes similar to pig isolates, while most of the C. jejuni serotypes differed. C. jejuni isolates of different origin comprised few similar serotypes, just one identical genotype was common between pigs, environment and birds. In conclusion, the occurrence of C jejuni varied considerably between the three groups of outdoor pigs. Furthermore, transfer of C jejuni to the outdoor pigs from the nearby environment was not predominant according to the subtype dissimilarities of the obtained isolates.
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