Environmental dynamics of Campylobacter jejuni genotypes circulating in Luxembourg: what is the role of wild birds?


Hock L., Herold M., Walczak C., Schoos A., Penny C., Cauchie H.M., Ragimbeau C.


Microbial Genomics, vol. 9, n° 6, art. no. 001031, 2023


Campylobacter jejuni is the leading cause of bacterial gastroenteritis worldwide, but, unlike other foodborne pathogens, is not commonly reported as causing outbreaks. The population structure of the species is characterized by a high degree of genetic diversity, but the presence of stable clonally derived genotypes persisting in space and time, and potentially leading to diffuse outbreaks, has recently been identified. The spread of these recurring genotypes could be enhanced by wild birds, suspected to act as vectors for a wide range of microorganisms that can be transmissible to other animals or humans. This study assessed the genetic diversity of C. jejuni carriage in wild birds and surface waters to explore a potential link between these environ-ments and the persistence over years of recurring lineages infecting humans in Luxembourg. These lineages corresponded to over 40 % of clinical isolates over a 4 year period from 2018 to 2021. While mainly exotic genotypes were recovered from environmental samples, 4 % of C. jejuni from wild birds corresponded to human recurring genotypes. Among them, a human clinical endemic lineage, occurring for over a decade in Luxembourg, was detected in one bird species, suggesting a possible contribution to the persistence of this clone and its multi-host feature. Whereas 27 % of wild birds were carriers of C. jejuni, confirming their role as spreader or reservoir, only three out of 59 genotypes overlapped with recurring human strains. While direct transmission of C. jejuni infection through wild birds remains questionable, they may play a key role in the environmental spreading of stable clones to livestock, and this issue merits further investigation.



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