Campylobacter jejuni is not merely a commensal in commercial broiler chickens and affects bird welfare

Suzanne Humphrey, Gemma Chaloner, Kirsty Kemmett, Nicola Davidson, Nicola Williams, Anja Kipar, Tom Humphrey, Paul Wigley*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

218 Citations (Scopus)
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Campylobacter jejuni is the leading cause of bacterial food-borne infection; chicken meat is its main source. C. jejuni is considered commensal in chickens based on experimental models unrepresentative of commercial production. Here we show that the paradigm of Campylobacter commensalism in the chicken is flawed. Through experimental infection of four commercial breeds of broiler chickens, we show that breed has a significant effect on C. jejuni infection and the immune response of the animals, although these factors have limited impact on the number of bacteria in chicken ceca. All breeds mounted an innate immune response. In some breeds, this response declined when interleukin-10 was expressed, consistent with regulation of the intestinal inflammatory response, and these birds remained healthy. In another breed, there was a prolonged inflammatory response, evidence of damage to gut mucosa, and diarrhea. We show that bird type has a major impact on infection biology of C. jejuni. In some breeds, infection leads to disease, and the bacterium cannot be considered a harmless commensal. These findings have implications for the welfare of chickens in commercial production where C. jejuni infection is a persistent problem.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere01364-14
Number of pages7
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2014


  • Campylobacter jejuni
  • food-borne infection
  • poultry industry


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