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Enumeration And Diversity Of Campylobacters And Bacteriophages Isolated During The Rearing Cycles Of Free-Range And Organic Chickens

A. El-Shibiny, P. L. Connerton, I. F. Connerton

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ABSTRACT Campylobacters and Campylobacter -specific bacteriophages were isolated and enumerated during the rearing cycle of free-range (56 days) and organic chickens (73 days) at 3-day intervals from hatching until slaughter. In both flocks Campylobacter jejuni was the initial colonizer but Campylobacter coli was detected more frequently from 5 weeks of age. The diversity of the Campylobacter isolates was examined by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis of SmaI-digested genomic DNA and antimicrobial resistance typing. Bacteriophages were isolated from 51% (19 of 37 birds) of Campylobacter -positive organic birds (log 10 2.5 to log 10 5.7 PFU/g of cecal contents). The bacteriophages were all typical group III Campylobacter bacteriophages in terms of genomic size but could be characterized in terms of their host range and placed into five different groups. In contrast to the organic birds, anti- Campylobacter activity (bacteriocin-like) was observed in 26% (10 of 38 birds) of Campylobacter -positive free-range birds, and only one bacteriophage was isolated. Appearance of either bacteriophages or anti- Campylobacter activity was associated with changes in the levels of colonization and the predominant genotypes and species isolated. The frequency and potential influence of naturally occurring bacteriophages and/or inhibitory substances on the diversity and fluctuations of populations of campylobacters have not previously been reported in either free-range or organic chickens.