Campylobacteriosis is still the most commonly reported zoonosis in the European Union causing gastrointestinal disease in humans. One of the most common sources for these food-borne infections is broiler meat. Interactions between Campylobacter (C.) jejuni and the intestinal microbiota might influence Campylobacter colonization in chickens. The aim of the present study was to gain further knowledge about exclusive interactions of the host microbiota with C. jejuni in Campylobacter-specific phage-free chickens under standardized conditions and special biosafety precautions.Therefore, 12 artificially infected (C. jejuni inoculum with a challenge dose of 7.64 log10 c.f.u.) and 12 control chickens of the breed Ross 308 were kept under special biosafety measures in an animal facility. At day 42 of life, microbiota studies were performed on samples of caecal digesta and mucus. No Campylobacter-specific phages were detected by real-time PCR analysis of caecal digesta of control or artificially infected chickens. Amplification of the 16S rRNA gene was performed within the hypervariable region V4 and subsequently sequenced with Illumina MiSeq platform. R (version 4.0.2) was used to compare the microbiota between C. jejuni-negative and C. jejuni-positive chickens. The factor chickens' infection status contributed significantly to the differences in microbial composition of mucosal samples, explaining 10.6 % of the microbiota variation (P=0.007) and in digesta samples, explaining 9.69 % of the microbiota variation (P=0.015). The strongest difference between C. jejuni-non-infected and C. jejuni-infected birds was observed for the family Peptococcaceae whose presence in C. jejuni-infected birds could not be demonstrated. Further, several genera of the family Ruminococcaceae appeared to be depressed in its abundance due to Campylobacter infection. A negative correlation was found between Christensenellaceae R-7 group and Campylobacter in C. jejuni-colonised chickens, both genera potentially competing for substrate. This makes Christensenellaceae R-7 group highly interesting for further studies that aim to find control options for Campylobacter infections and assess the relevance of this finding for chicken health and Campylobacter colonization.
Keywords: 16S rRNA genes; Campylobacter; bacteriophages; gut microbiota; mucus; poultry.