Reducing Predisposing Factors Key in Campylobacter Control

In Brief

  • Campylobacter is difficult to control, and prevalence may be increasing.
  • Mycotoxin contamination can predispose birds to Campylobacter.
  • Controlling predisposing factors is an important tool for Campylobacter control.

Addressing the predisposing factors that allow Campylobacter to flourish can offer broiler producers an additional strategy to improve poultry’s food safety profile.

Campylobacter has proved more difficult to control than other food borne pathogens leading to gastroenteritis and there is evidence to suggest that campylobacteriosis is on the rise. Given the difficulties in directly reducing Campylobacter incidence, limiting predisposing factors, such as mycotoxins, can form part of a Campylobacter control strategy.

Mycotoxins’ impact on the gut

Mycotoxins act as a predisposing factor due to their ability make the chicken’s immune system more vulnerable, potentially leading to secondary infections and decreasing overall flock health.

Deoxynivalenol (DON) is particularly correlated with this issue since it can have dramatic effects on the poultry gut and immune system. The disruption of intestinal integrity may lead to an increased likelihood of pathogenic bacteria entering the bloodstream and, consequently, increased susceptibility to disease. According to the latest DSM Mycotoxin Survey, in 2020, DON was the most widespread tricholthecene mycotoxin in feed.

Worldwide DON contamination - 2020

  Contaminated samples (%) Avg. of positives (ppb) Max. (ppb)
North America 75 789 43,517
Central & South America 61 736 26,320
Europe 75 531 11,875
MEA & North Africa 78 497 5,170
Africa 78 592 7,254
Asia 81 546 17,550

DON shows high prevalence and contamination levels worldwide
Source: World Mycotoxin Survey, 2020

It is well documented that DON can negatively impact common problems in animal production, such as increasing Salmonella typhimurium issues and facilitating the entrance of pathogenic Escherichia coli strains into the bloodstream in pigs, also predisposing broilers to necrotic enteritis.

Recent studies have also strengthened the hypothesis that DON can also influence the infection profile of Campylobacter jejuni in broilers. The co-exposure of DON in poultry feed and C. jejuni showed a considerably increased presence of pathogen loads in the gut as well as an increase in gut permeability.

The study found that the co-exposure by C. jejuni or DON challenge negatively impacted the gut barrier function, reflecting impairment of the digestive and immune functions. Additionally, the synergistic effect between DON and C. jejuni was also found to enhance C. jejuni colonization of the broiler gut, as DON destroys the gut structure, providing favorable conditions for Campylobacter growth.

Three strategies are considered effective in mitigating the risk of mycotoxins on animals’ immune status:

  1. Adsorption
    binding adsorbable mycotoxins, such as aflatoxins, in the gastrointestinal tract

  2. Biotransformation
    the irreversible degradation of non-adsorbable mycotoxins (including DON, zearalenone and fumonisins) into non-toxic compounds

  3. Bioprotection
    supporting the functionality of the liver and gut, which are the main organs affected by mycotoxins

Establishing a strategic plan to correctly identify and counteract mycotoxins, specifically DON, can be key in reducing Campylobacter risk and improving the food safety profile of poultry meat.

Published on

26 July 2021


  • Mycotoxins
  • Poultry
  • Campylobacter

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