SUMMARY Zebra finches ( Taeniopygia guttata ) are commonly used laboratory animal species for modelling neurobiology and learning. Historically, culture, biochemical analysis and 16S ribosomal RNA (rRNA) sequencing of bacterial isolates from feces of finches housed at MIT have been presumptively diagnosed as of Campylobacter jejuni , a gram-negative, microaerophilic bacteria commonly isolated from both domestic and wild birds. Although the zebra finches were not clinically affected, C. jejuni is a known zoonotic pathogen that causes gastroenteritis in humans worldwide. Human transmission is predominantly foodborne and associated with consumption of contaminated poultry; however, humans can also become infected from contact with C. jejuni infected reservoir hosts. Because C. jejuni infected finches pose a risk to research personnel, a study was undertaken to investigate the prevalence and taxonomic identification of Campylobacter spp. present in the finch colony. A total of 26 finch fecal samples collected in 2003, 2010, and 2017, had Campylobacter spp. isolated from all the samples. 16S rRNA sequencing of all isolates determined that they shared 99% identity with either C. jejuni or C. lari . Sixteen of the isolates were subjected to further biochemical characterization, and atp A and rpo B gene sequence analysis. Based on these analyses, three clusters of Campylobacter species were identified. Whole genome sequences were obtained for one representative isolate from each cluster. Pan-genomic phylogenetic tree, average nucleotide identity, digital DNA-DNA hybridization, and orthologous gene analyses indicated that each isolate was its own novel species, distinct from C. jejuni , and other avian species. We have named these novel species C. taeniopygiae , C. aviculae and C. estrildidarum, and in each novel species have identified virulence genes suggesting their pathogenic and zoonotic potential.

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