Three-day-old specific pathogen–free chickens (n = 24) located in isolators were inoculated orally with Helicobacter pullorum. One group (n = 12) was infected with a H. pullorum field isolate from human origin, another one (n = 12) with the American Type Culture Collection H. pullorum reference isolate 51801 originating from chickens. Both isolates were positive for cytolethal distending toxin, investigated using a polymerase chain reaction (PCR). A third group (n = 4) was kept as a negative control. Starting on day 7 of life, birds from each group were euthanatized at different time points up to 35 days. Various organ samples were taken aseptically and processed by culture and a H. pullorum–specific PCR. In the group infected with the human isolate the nucleic acid of H. pullorum was detected in the caecal tonsils and caeca of 12 and 11 birds, respectively. Live bacteria were cultivated from the caecal tonsils and caeca of five birds 24 and 31 days postinfection. Live bacteria were also isolated from the heart of one bird, whereas PCR had to be used to detect the nucleic acid of H. pullorum in the gallbladder of four birds. No live bacteria were reisolated at any time from birds infected with the avian isolate, but bacterial nucleic acid was detected in the caeca of five birds and in the gallbladder of one. In both groups neither live H. pullorum nor its nucleic acid were detected in the liver, spleen, and duodenum. Compared to the avian H. pullorum isolate the human isolate proved to be more invasive. No obvious clinical symptoms or disease was seen in the chickens during the entire experiment. The reisolation of live bacteria at the end of the experiments indicates that H. pullorum could enter the food chain even after early infection in birds. Furthermore, PCR was demonstrated to be helpful in tracing these fastidious bacteria.
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Vol. 50 • No. 4