Poultry is seen as the main reservoir for Campylobacter. Control of this zoonotic pathogen in primary production could potentially reduce the colonization in broiler flocks and consequently reduce the number of human infections. In the present study, 20 broiler flocks from 10 farms, were sampled immediately before and 5 to 7 d after partial depopulation (thinning) for the presence of Campylobacter using cecal droppings and overshoes. At the time of thinning, the catching crew, transportation vehicles, forklift, and transport containers were sampled for the presence of Campylobacter. Samples were cultivated; presumed positive isolates were confirmed by PCR. The isolates were molecularly typed by flaA restriction analysis and pulsed field gel electrophoresis. Results show that all flocks were thinned using Campylobacter-contaminated equipment and materials. One-third of the broiler flocks became colonized after thinning. In 67% of the colonization cases, identical strains were found matching those of container systems, transport trucks, and/or forklifts. This identifies thinning as an important risk factor for Campylobacter introduction into broiler houses. Setup and compliance with biosecurity practices during thinning is essential to prevent Campylobacter colonization of broiler flocks.
- partial depopulation