Zoonotic Public Health Hazards in Backyard Chickens

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Abstract

Summary

Backyard poultry has become increasingly popular in industrialized countries. In addition to keeping chickens for eggs and meat, owners often treat the birds as pets. However, several pathogenic enteric bacteria have the potential for zoonotic transmission from poultry to humans but very little is known about the occurrence of zoonotic pathogens in backyard flocks. The occurrence and the antimicrobial resistance of Salmonella enterica, Campylobacter spp., Listeria monocytogenes and enteropathogenic Yersinia spp. was studied in 51 voluntary backyard chicken farms in Finland during October 2012 and January 2013. Campylobacter isolates were further characterized by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE), and the occurrence of ESBL/AmpC-producing E. coli was investigated. The findings from this study indicate that backyard chickens are a reservoir of Campylobacter jejuni strains and a potential source of C. jejuni infection for humans. Backyard chickens can also carry L. monocytogenes, although their role as a primary reservoir is questionable. Campylobacter coli, Yersinia pseudotuberculosis and Salmonella enterica were only found sporadically in the faecal and environmental samples of backyard poultry in Finland. No Yersinia enterocolitica carrying the virulence plasmid was isolated. All pathogens were highly susceptible to most of the antimicrobials studied. Only a few AmpC- and no ESBL-producing E. coli were found.

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