Occurrence and Antimicrobial Resistance Profiles of Campylobacter jejuni, Campylobacter coli, and Campylobacter upsaliensis in Beef Cattle on Cow-Calf Operations in South Africa

Foodborne Pathog Dis. 2020 Jul;17(7):440-446. doi: 10.1089/fpd.2019.2703. Epub 2020 Jan 14.


This study investigated occurrence and antimicrobial resistance profiles of Campylobacter spp. isolates in beef cattle on five cow-calf operations in South Africa. A total of 537 fecal samples from adult beef cattle (n = 435) and rectal swabs from calves (n = 102) were screened for Campylobacter jejuni, Campylobacter coli, and Campylobacter upsaliensis by culture and polymerase chain reaction. Furthermore, 86 Campylobacter spp. isolates including 46 C. jejuni, 24 C. coli, and 16 C. upsaliensis were tested for antimicrobial resistance against a panel of 9 antimicrobials. Overall, Campylobacter spp. was detected in 29.7% of cattle. Among the 158 Campylobacter spp.-positive cattle, 61.8% carried C. jejuni, 25% carried C. coli, and 10% carried C. upsaliensis. Five animals (3.1%) had mixed infections: three cows carried C. jejuni and C. coli concurrently, one cow had both C. jejuni and C. upsaliensis, and one cow harbored C. coli and C. upsaliensis. Antimicrobial resistance profiling among 86 Campylobacter spp. isolates revealed that 52.3% of the isolates were resistant to one or more antimicrobials. Antimicrobial resistance was observed in 46.7% of C. jejuni isolates, 35.6% of C. coli, and 17.8% of C. upsaliensis. Thirty-six percent of isolates were resistant to clindamycin, 19.7% to nalidixic acid, 18.6% to tetracycline, and 17.4% to erythromycin. Lower resistance rates were recorded for azithromycin (8.1%), florfenicol (3.4%), gentamicin (4.8%), and telithromycin and ciprofloxacin (5.8%). Multidrug resistance (MDR) was observed in 32.5% of isolates. Significantly higher levels of MDR were detected among C. jejuni (36.9%) and C. coli (33.3%) isolates in comparison to C. upsaliensis (18.7%). Two main multiresistance patterns were detected: nalidixic acid/clindamycin (17.8%) and tetracycline/clindamycin (14.2%). To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study which has shown that beef cattle on cow-calf operations in South Africa constitute an important reservoir and a potential source of clinically relevant and antimicrobial resistant Campylobacter spp. strains.

Keywords: Campylobacter spp.; South Africa; antimicrobial resistance; beef cattle.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology
  • Campylobacter Infections / epidemiology
  • Campylobacter Infections / microbiology*
  • Campylobacter Infections / veterinary
  • Campylobacter coli / drug effects*
  • Campylobacter coli / isolation & purification
  • Campylobacter jejuni / drug effects*
  • Campylobacter jejuni / isolation & purification
  • Campylobacter upsaliensis / drug effects*
  • Campylobacter upsaliensis / isolation & purification
  • Cattle
  • Drug Resistance, Bacterial*
  • Feces / microbiology
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests
  • Rectum / microbiology
  • South Africa / epidemiology


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents