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Longitudinal Study Of Campylobacter Jejuni Bacteriophages And Their Hosts From Broiler Chickens

P. L. Connerton, C. M. Loc Carrillo, C. Swift, E. Dillon, A. Scott, C. E. D. Rees, C. E. R. Dodd, J. Frost, I. F. Connerton

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ABSTRACT A longitudinal study of bacteriophages and their hosts was carried out at a broiler house that had been identified as having a population of Campylobacter -specific bacteriophages. Cloacal and excreta samples were collected from three successive broiler flocks reared in the same barn. Campylobacter jejuni was isolated from each flock, whereas bacteriophages could be isolated from flocks 1 and 2 but were not isolated from flock 3. The bacteriophages isolated from flocks 1 and 2 were closely related to each other in terms of host range, morphology, genome size, and genetic content. All Campylobacter isolates from flock 1 were genotypically indistinguishable by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE). PFGE and multilocus sequence typing indicated that this C. jejuni type was maintained from flock 1 to flock 2 but was largely superseded by three genetically distinct C. jejuni types insensitive to the resident bacteriophages. All isolates from the third batch of birds were insensitive to bacteriophages and genotypically distinct. These results are significant because this is the first study of an environmental population of C. jejuni bacteriophages and their influence on the Campylobacter populations of broiler house chickens. The role of developing bacteriophage resistance was investigated as this is a possible obstacle to the use of bacteriophage therapy to reduce the numbers of campylobacters in chickens. In this broiler house succession was largely due to incursion of new genotypes rather than to de novo development of resistance.