a1 Institute for Animal Science and Health (ID-DLO), Research Branch Beekbergen, Spelderholt 9, 7361 DA Beekbergen, The Netherlands
a2 Laboratory for Water and Food Microbiology, National Institute of Public Health and Environmental Protection, P.O. Box 1, 3720 BA Bilthoven, The Netherlands
Broiler flocks on two Dutch poultry farms were screened weekly for the presence of Campylobacter in fresh caecal droppings during eight consecutive production cycles. Hatchery and fresh litter samples were taken at the start of each new cycle. Water, feed, insects, and faeces of domestic animals, present on the farms were also included in the sampling. Penner seretyping of isolates was used to identify epidemiological factors that contribute to Campylobacter colonization in the broiler flocks. Generally, broiler flocks became colonized with Campylobacter at about 3–4 weeks of age with isolation percentages of 100%, and stayed colonized up to slaughter. A similar pattern of serotypes was found within the various broiler houses on one farm during one production cycle. New flocks generally showed also a new pattern of serotypes. Most serotypes isolated from the laying hens, pigs, sheep and cattle were different from those isolated from the broilers at the same time. Campylobacter serotypes from darkling beetles inside the broiler houses were identical to the ones isolated from the broilers. No Campylobacter was isolated from any of the hatchery, water, feed or fresh litter samples. Conclusive evidence of transmission routes was not found, but results certainly point towards horizontal transmission from the environment. Horizontal transmission from one broiler flock to the next one via a persistent contamination within the broiler house, as well as vertical transmission from breeder flocks via the hatchery to progeny, did not seem to be very likely.
(Accepted December 01 1994)