Multilocus sequence typing confirms wild birds as the source of a Campylobacter outbreak associated with the consumption of raw peas

Appl Environ Microbiol. 2014 Aug;80(15):4540-6. doi: 10.1128/AEM.00537-14.


From August to September 2008, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) assisted the Alaska Division of Public Health with an outbreak investigation of campylobacteriosis occurring among the residents of Southcentral Alaska. During the investigation, pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) of Campylobacter jejuni isolates from human, raw pea, and wild bird fecal samples confirmed the epidemiologic link between illness and the consumption of raw peas contaminated by sandhill cranes for 15 of 43 epidemiologically linked human isolates. However, an association between the remaining epidemiologically linked human infections and the pea and wild bird isolates was not established. To better understand the molecular epidemiology of the outbreak, C. jejuni isolates (n=130; 59 from humans, 40 from peas, and 31 from wild birds) were further characterized by multilocus sequence typing (MLST). Here we present the molecular evidence to demonstrate the association of many more human C.jejuni infections associated with the outbreak with raw peas and wild bird feces. Among all sequence types (STs) identified, 26 of 39 (67%) were novel and exclusive to the outbreak. Five clusters of overlapping STs (n=32 isolates; 17 from humans, 2 from peas, and 13 from wild birds) were identified. In particular, cluster E (n=7 isolates; ST-5049) consisted of isolates from humans,peas, and wild birds. Novel STs clustered closely with isolates typically associated with wild birds and the environment but distinct from lineages commonly seen in human infections. Novel STs and alleles recovered from human outbreak isolates allowed additional infections caused by these rare genotypes to be attributed to the contaminated raw peas.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alaska / epidemiology
  • Animals
  • Animals, Wild / microbiology*
  • Birds / microbiology*
  • Campylobacter / classification
  • Campylobacter / genetics
  • Campylobacter / isolation & purification*
  • Campylobacter Infections / epidemiology
  • Campylobacter Infections / microbiology*
  • Disease Outbreaks
  • Feces / microbiology
  • Food Contamination / analysis
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Multilocus Sequence Typing
  • Phylogeny
  • Pisum sativum / microbiology*