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Evidence of Campylobacter Found in Chicks Embryos

22 May 2013

US - Evidence of Campylobacter has been found in all the seven-day-old chick embryos tested by researchers with the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS).

Campylobacter, a foodborne pathogen closely associated with poultry, is recognised as a leading bacterial aetiological agent of human gastroenteritis in the United States.

In a paper published in Poultry Science, Kelli Hiett and colleagues at USDA ARS Richard B. Russell Research Center in Athens, Georgia, report two trials in which tissues from seven-, 14/15- and 19-day-old commercial broiler chicken embryos were tested for the presence of Campylobacter using both culturing methodology and PCR.

Conventional culturing methods failed to detect Campylobacter from any samples tested during this investigation.

Using a set of primers specific for the Campylobacter flagellinA short variable region (flaA SVR), Campylobacter DNA was amplified in 100, 80 and 100 per cent of gastrointestinal tracts from seven-, 15- and 19-day-old embryos, respectively, in the first trial.

Similarly, Campylobacter DNA was detected in 100, 70, and 60 per cent of gastrointestinal tracts of seven-, 14- and 18-day-old embryos, respectively, in the second trial.

In both trials, yolk sac, albumin and liver/gallbladder samples from 19-day-old embryos all failed to produce amplicons indicative of Campylobacter DNA. Subsequent DNA sequence analyses of the flaA SVR PCR products were consistent with the amplicon arising from Campylobacter.

Although a determination of whether the Campylobacter was living or dead within the embryos could not be made, Hiellt and colleagues said their results demonstrate that Campylobacter-specific DNA is present within the gastrointestinal tract of broiler chicken embryos. However, they added that the means by which it is present and the relative contribution to subsequent Campylobacter contamination of poultry flocks requires further investigation.


Hiett K.L., N.A. Cox and M.J. Rothrock Jr. 2013. Polymerase chain reaction detection of naturally occurring Campylobacter in commercial broiler chicken embryos. Poult. Sci. 92(4):1134-1137. doi: 10.3382/ps.2012-02812

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