Genomic and phenotypic characteristics of Swedish C. jejuni water isolates

PLoS One. 2017 Dec 7;12(12):e0189222. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0189222. eCollection 2017.


Campylobacter jejuni is the most common cause of bacterial gastroenteritis. Major reservoirs are warm-blooded animals, poultry in particular, but Campylobacter can also be transmitted via water. In this paper, we have taken a closer look at the biology and potential virulence of C. jejuni water isolates. Seven C. jejuni isolates from incoming surface water at water plants in Sweden were characterized with whole genome sequencing and phenotypical testing. Multi locus sequence typing analysis revealed that these isolates belonged to groups known to include both common (ST48CC) and uncommon (ST1275CC, ST683, ST793 and ST8853) human pathogens. Further genomic characterization revealed that these isolates had potential for arsenic resistance (due to presence of arsB gene in all isolates), an anaerobic dimethyl sulfoxide oxidoreductase (in three isolates) and lacked the MarR-type transcriptional regulator gene rrpB (in all but one isolate) earlier shown to be involved in better survival under oxidative and aerobic stress. As putative virulence factors were concerned, there were differences between the water isolates in the presence of genes coding for cytolethal distending toxin (cdtABC), Type VI secretion system and sialylated LOS, as well as in biofilm formation. However, all isolates were motile and could adhere to and invade the human HT-29 colon cancer cell line in vitro and induce IL-8 secretion suggesting potential to infect humans. This is, to the best of our knowledge, the first study where C. jejuni water isolates have been characterized using whole genome sequencing and phenotypical assays. We found differences and shared traits among the isolates but also potential to infect humans.

MeSH terms

  • Campylobacter jejuni / genetics*
  • Campylobacter jejuni / pathogenicity
  • Genes, Bacterial
  • Phenotype
  • Sweden
  • Virulence
  • Water Microbiology*

Grants and funding

This work was supported by the Swedish Research Council FORMAS (grant 221-2012-1442) (HR). The funder had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.