Between July 1998 and June 1999, 93 lots of broiler chickens distributed on 57 farms were sampled in two abattoirs of the province of Québec (Canada). A total of 2,325 samples of cecal material were analyzed to determine the prevalence of campylobacters. Biotyping and pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) were done on 20% of the Campylobacter isolates to study the distribution within poultry production. Macrorestriction profiles were compared with profiles of 24 Campylobacter strains isolated from sporadic cases of human diarrheic patients in order to evaluate genetic relationships. Approximately 40% of the broiler chickens in 60% of the lots and 67% of the farms were colonized. Biotypes I and II of Campylobacter jejuni were the most prevalent biotypes in poultry and human isolates. The PFGE dendograms revealed a high genetic diversity among poultry isolates, with 49 different genotypes from the 56 positive lots. More than 75% of these lots were colonized by a unique genotype. All positive lots raised simultaneously on the same farm had common genotype(s). Different genotypes were isolated from lots raised at different grow-out periods on a farm. In some cases, identical genotypes were found at different grow-out periods on a farm and also from different farms. Macrorestriction profiles showed that approximately 20% of human Campylobacter isolates were genetically related to genotypes found in poultry. This genetic relationship and the high prevalence of C. jejuni biotypes I and II in poultry indicated that Campylobacter in broiler production of the province of Québec could be a potential source of hazard for public health.

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