Campylobacter jejuni is responsible for the majority of bacterial foodborne gastroenteritis in the US, usually due to the consumption of undercooked poultry. Research on which avian species transmit the bacterium is limited, especially in the US. We sampled wild birds in three families—Anatidae, Scolopacidae, and Laridae—in eastern North America to determine the prevalence and specific strains of Campylobacter. The overall prevalence of Campylobacter spp. was 9.2% for all wild birds sampled (n = 781). Campylobacter jejuni was the most prevalent species (8.1%), while Campylobacter coli and Campylobacter lari prevalence estimates were low (1.4% and 0.3%, respectively). We used multilocus sequence typing PCR specific to C. jejuni to characterize clonal complexes and sequence types isolated from wild bird samples and detected 13 novel sequence types, along with a clonal complex previously only associated with human disease (ST-658). Wild birds share an increasing amount of habitat with humans as more landscapes become fragmented and developed for human needs. Wild birds are and will remain an important aspect of public health due to their ability to carry and disperse emerging zoonotic pathogens or their arthropod vectors. As basic information such as prevalence is limited or lacking from a majority of wild birds in the US, this study provides further insight into Campylobacter epidemiology, host preference, and strain characterization of C. jejuni.
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