Campylobacter Colonization and Diversity in Young Turkeys in the Context of Gastrointestinal Distress and Antimicrobial Treatment
Young turkeys are vulnerable to undifferentiated gastrointestinal distress, including “irritable and crabby syndrome” (ICS), which compromises flock performance and is typically treated with a combination of penicillin and gentamicin (P/G). However, the effects of ICS and P/G treatment on Campylobacter remain poorly understood. We investigated the impact of ICS and P/G treatment on Campylobacter levels and diversity in four flocks from three turkey farms. Cecum and jejunum samples were analyzed weekly from day of hatch to week 4–5. All four flocks became colonized with multidrug resistant (MDR) Campylobacter jejuni and C. coli by week 2–3, and two developed ICS. ICS and P/G treatment did not significantly impact total Campylobacter levels or strain genotypes but impacted species and antimicrobial resistance (AMR) profiles. One flock was raised under antibiotic-free (ABF) conditions while another flock at the same farm was raised conventionally. The ABF flock did not develop ICS while its counterpart did. However, Campylobacter strains, AMR profiles and sequence types were generally shared between these two flocks. Our findings suggest that ICS and P/G treatment impacted Campylobacter population dynamics in commercial young turkey flocks, and that ABF flocks may become readily colonized by MDR strains from non-ABF flocks at the same farm.