Campylobacter jejuni is frequently present in the intestinal tract of commercial broiler chickens, and their drinking water has been proposed to be an initial source of bacteria for newly hatched chicks. We studied three sequential commercial broiler flocks raised in a house from which we had cultured C. jejuni from the nipple waters prior to placement of the first flock. Campylobacter cells were detected by immunofluorescence in the biofilm of the drinking nipples during the weeks when the flock was colonized with C. jejuni but not during weeks when the birds were negative. Campylobacter jejuni was isolated from the drinking water during the growth of the first flock and was present in the birds from all three flocks. Randomly amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPD)–polymerase chain reaction (PCR) typing with primer OPA11 indicated that seven distinct strains were present within the broiler house. One strain found in drinking water was similar to a strain found in birds in the second flock; however, RAPD-PCR with primer HLW85 showed that the strains were not identical. These results suggest that although the watering system is a potential source of C. jejuni in broiler flocks, the waterborne strain in this study was not detected in the birds.

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