Infectious Diseases 2021

Infectious Diseases 2021

Campylobacter bacteria can exchange genetic material

Plos One, Feb. 11, 2021 19 February, 2021

Campylobacter is the worldwide leading cause for foodborne illness and it persists throughout poultry production, from farm to grocery shelves. According to new research, two of the most common strains are exchanging genetic material.
Campylobacter bacteria spread primarily through consumption of contaminated food products. There are two strains of Campylobacter that we’re concerned with: 
C. coli and C. jejuni.
C. jejuni causes up to 90% of human Campylobacter infections, but this strain is less likely to carry multidrug-resistant genes. C. coli is twice as likely to contain multidrug-resistant genes, but it’s a less effective human pathogen. Since Campylobacter has a fairly ‘plastic’ genome, the strains can exchange genetic material. Researchers sampled chicken and turkey from retail grocery stores across North Carolina during 2018-2019. They compared Campylobacter isolates from the meat to USDA samples taken from poultry farms and production facilities in North Carolina. C. coli was most prevalent on farms and production facilities, at 54% and 60% for chicken isolates respectively, while C. jejuni was found in 69% of retail chicken meat. The team noted the appearance of a significantly higher number of new Campylobacter strains, 21 in 2019 compared to only two in 2018. This indicates extensive changes occurring in the Campylobacter genome that have the potential to increase its virulence and drug resistance profile.
This study shows that genomic exchange is happening between C. coli and C. jejuni, and that there is increasing antimicrobial resistance in Campylobacter found in NC poultry production.