The prevalence of Campylobacter amongst a free-range broiler breeder flock was primarily affected by flock age.
Colles FM., McCarthy ND., Layton R., Maiden MC.
Campylobacter successfully colonizes broiler chickens, but little is known about the longer term natural history of colonization, since most flocks are slaughtered at an immature age. In this study, the prevalence and genetic diversity of Campylobacter colonizing a single free-range broiler breeder flock was investigated over the course of a year. The age of the flock was the most important factor in determining both the prevalence and diversity of Campylobacter over time. There was no correlation with season, temperature, the amount of rain and sunshine, or the dynamics of colonization amongst geographically and temporally matched broiler flocks. The higher prevalence rates coincided with the age at which broiler chickens are typically slaughtered, but then in the absence of bio-security or other intervention methods, and despite changes in flock management, the prevalence fell to significantly lower levels for the remainder of the study. The genetic diversity of Campylobacter increased as the flock aged, implying that genotypes were accumulated within the flock and may persist for a long time. A better understanding of the ecology of Campylobacter within commercial chicken flocks will allow the design of more effective farm-based interventions.