Campylobacter colonization in poultry: sources of infection and modes of transmission

Anim Health Res Rev. 2002 Dec;3(2):95-105. doi: 10.1079/ahrr200244.


Since its recognition as a human pathogen in the early 1970s, Campylobacter jejuni has now emerged as the leading bacterial cause of food-borne gastroenteritis in developed countries. Poultry, particularly chickens, account for the majority of human infections caused by Campylobacter. Reduction or elimination of this pathogen in the poultry reservoir is an essential step in minimizing the public health problem; however, farm-based intervention measures are still not available because of the lack of understanding of the ecological aspects of C. jejuni on poultry farms. Although Campylobacter is highly prevalent in poultry production systems, how poultry flocks become infected with this organism is still unknown. Many investigations indicate that horizontal transmission from environmental sources is the primary route of flock infections by Campylobacter. However, some recent studies also suggest the possibility of vertical transmission from breeder to progeny flocks. The transmission of the organism is not well understood, but it is likely to be through both vertical and horizontal transmission and may be affected by the immune status of the poultry host and the environmental conditions in the production system. Intervention strategies for Campylobacter infection in poultry should consider the complex nature of its transmission and may require the use of multiple approaches that target different segments of the poultry production system.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Campylobacter Infections / microbiology
  • Campylobacter Infections / prevention & control
  • Campylobacter Infections / transmission*
  • Campylobacter jejuni / growth & development*
  • Chickens*
  • Disease Reservoirs / veterinary
  • Disease Transmission, Infectious / veterinary
  • Food Microbiology
  • Foodborne Diseases / microbiology
  • Foodborne Diseases / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Infectious Disease Transmission, Vertical / veterinary
  • Poultry Diseases / microbiology*
  • Poultry Diseases / transmission
  • Zoonoses*