Quantitative data on Campylobacter contamination of food are lacking, notably in developing countries. We assessed Campylobacter contamination of chicken neck-skins at points of slaughter in 5 major cities in Africa (Dakar in Senegal, Yaounde in Cameroon), Oceania (Noumea in New Caledonia), the Indian Ocean (Antananarivo in Madagascar) and Asia (Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) in Vietnam. One hundred and fifty slaughtered chickens were collected in each of the 5 major cities from semi-industrial abattoirs or markets (direct slaughter by the seller), and 65.5% (491/750) were found to be Campylobacter-positive. Two cities, Yaounde and Noumea, demonstrated high prevalence Campylobacter detection rates (92.7% and 96.7% respectively) in contrast with HCMC (15.3%). Four species were identified among 633 isolates, namely C. jejuni (48.3%), C. coli (37.3%), C. lari (11.7%) and C. upsaliensis (1%). HCMC was the only city with C. lari isolation as was Antananarivo for C. upsaliensis. C. coli was highly prevalent only in Yaounde (69.5%). Among the 491 samples positive in Campylobacter detection, 329 were also positive with the enumeration method. The number of Campylobacter colony-forming units (CFU) per gram of neck-skin in samples positive in enumeration was high (mean of the log(10): 3.2 log(10) CFU/g, arithmetic mean: 7900CFU/g). All the cities showed close enumeration means except HCMC with a 1.81 log(10) CFU/g mean for positive samples. Semi-industrial abattoir was linked to a significant lower count of Campylobacter contamination than direct slaughter by the seller (p=0.006). On 546 isolates (546/633, 86.3%) tested for antibiotic susceptibility, resistance to erythromycin, ampicillin and ciprofloxacin was observed for respectively 11%, 19% and 50%. HCMC was the city where antibiotic resistant rates were the highest (95%, p=0.014). Considering the 329 positive chickens in Campylobacter enumeration, the mean number of resistant isolates to at least 2 different antibiotic families (19.8%), may be estimated ca. 1500CFU/g; the corresponding mean of the log(10) would be 2.5 log(10)CFU/g. As chickens are sold at slaughter and brought directly at home to be cooked, these data suggest a high probability of cross-contamination. A substantial proportion of isolates are drug-resistant, which could lead to potential public health issues. Health authorities should consider measures to reduce Campylobacter contamination of chicken during farming and at slaughter, and to provide appropriate food hygiene education. Further studies are needed in particular to investigate food-handling practices in domestic kitchens.
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