Poultry are recognized as a main reservoir of thermophilic campylobacters, but few studies have been carried out on commercial meat turkeys. This study was aimed at assessing the occurrence of thermophilic Campylobacter spp., their genetic diversity, and the trend of the infection during the whole production cycle of three turkey flocks from different farms in Northern Italy. Flocks were monitored from the time of housing 1-day-old poults to slaughter time by collecting samples (meconium and cloacal swabs) at weekly intervals up to the recovery of Campylobacter spp. and then twice a month. A conventional culture method and a multiplex PCR assay were used for Campylobacter detection and identification. A subset of isolates was genetically characterized by random amplified polymorphic DNA-PCR (RAPD-PCR) and flagellin gene A short variable region (flaA-SVR) sequencing. Although at different times, all flocks became colonized by Campylobacter jejuni or Campylobacter coli (or both) that persisted throughout the entire production cycle. Overall, nine RAPD types and 14 flaA-SVR types were detected with differences in their distribution among flocks and sampling times. Moreover, changes in the Campylobacter genotypes colonizing turkeys were observed over time within each flock. These findings suggest that Italian commercial turkeys might be widely colonized by different genotypes of C. jejuni and C. coli and also suggest that differences in the distribution and epidemiologic dynamics of these microorganisms might occur among flocks.
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Vol. 56 • No. 4