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Foodborne Bacteria Causes Disease In Some Breeds Of Chicken: Study

Update Date: Jul 01, 2014 11:16 AM EDT

The foodborne pathogen Campylobacter jejuni can cause disease in some breeds of poultry, according to a new research. This particular finding is contrary to popular belief that the foodborne pathogen is not a harmless commensal in chicken. 

"The main implication is that Campylobacter is not always harmless to chickens. This rather changes our view of the biology of this nasty little bug," said Paul Wigley of Institute for Infection and Global Health at the University of Liverpool, an author on the study, according to a press release. 

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Campylobacter jejuni is the most frequent cause of foodborne bacterial gastroenteritis in the world, affecting approximately 1.3 million people per year in the United States. 

Researchers in the study experimentally infected birds from four commercial breeds of broiler chickens and found that while levels of the bacteria in the intestines did not differ by breed, immune response and inflammation did, to the extent that one breed showed damage to the gut mucosa and developed diarrhea.

"Interestingly the breeds did not differ in the levels of bacteria we found in their intestines after infection, even when kept to normal slaughter age," Wigley added. "This suggests that chicken breed has little direct effect on the risk of Campylobacter entering the food chain but has a big effect on the health of the birds."

According to researchers, the most important findings is that Campylobacter infection directly impacts broiler chicken health and welfare. 

"On the positive side, we now know that chickens produce a robust immune response to infection, which in the longer term may allow us to develop vaccines," said Wigley.

The study has been published in the journal mBio®, the online open-access journal of the American Society for Microbiology.

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