Human campylobacteriosis is a major public health concern in developed countries, with Campylobacter jejuni and Campylobacter coli from poultry recognized as the main source of human infection. Identification of Campylobacter-positive broiler herds before slaughter is essential for implementing measures to avoid carryover of pathogens via the slaughter process into the food chain. However, appropriate methods that have been validated for testing poultry flocks antemortem are lacking for Campylobacter. A quantitative real-time PCR (qPCR) that allows simultaneous detection and quantification of C. jejuni and C. coli was adapted and optimized to be applied on boot socks. The adjusted qPCR serves as an easy, sensitive, and quantitative method for Campylobacter detection in poultry flocks antemortem by analysis of boot socks. An adequate correlation was found between qPCR and culture, as well as between boot socks and cecal samples, which are regarded as the “gold standard.” Therefore, boot sock sampling followed by qPCR analysis provides a reliable and simple method for assessing Campylobacter load within a flock prior to slaughter. The approach allows categorization of broiler herds into negative, low, moderate, or high Campylobacter colonization. Based on the results of this new approach, risk assessment models, such as evaluating the possible effect of sorting flocks before slaughter, can be easily implemented. Similarly, targeted identification of highly colonized flocks for improvement of biosecurity measures at the farm level will become feasible, presenting an opportunity to increase food safety.

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