Campylobacter jejuni Colonization in Wild Birds: Results from an Infection Experiment
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Campylobacter jejuni is a common cause of bacterial gastroenteritis in most parts of the world. The bacterium has a broad host range and has been isolated from many animals and environments. To investigate shedding patterns and putative effects on an avian host, we developed a colonization model in which a wild bird species, the European Robin Erithacus rubecula, was inoculated orally with C. jejuni from either a human patient or from another wild bird species, the Song Thrush Turdus philomelos. These two isolates were genetically distinct from each other and provoked very different host responses. The Song Thrush isolate colonized all challenged birds and colonization lasted 6.8 days on average. Birds infected with this isolate also showed a transient but significant decrease in body mass. The human isolate did not colonize the birds and could be detected only in the feces of the birds shortly after inoculation. European Robins infected with the wild bird isolate generated a specific antibody response to C. jejuni membrane proteins from the avian isolate, which also was cross-reactive to membrane proteins of the human isolate. In contrast, European Robins infected with the human isolate did not mount a significant response to bacterial membrane proteins from either of the two isolates. The difference in colonization ability could indicate host adaptations.