Analysis of nucleic acid polymorphism in the flagellin genes of Campylobacter jejuni was used to investigate genetic diversity among Campylobacter spp. in a commercial broiler flock. Three hundred single colonies of C. jejuni were isolated from fecal samples collected weekly for 3 weeks immediately before slaughter. Both the flaA and flaB genes were amplified by PCR, and the PCR product was digested with the restriction enzyme AluI. The fragments generated were then analyzed by agarose gel electrophoresis. Among the 300 recovered isolates, five different restriction fragment length polymorphism profiles were observed. Three of these profiles were dominant during the course of the study, and the other two profiles were detected at low frequency. Analysis of genetic variation in C. jejuni over the course of an experimental infection lasting 7 weeks indicated that there was no obvious drift in the flagellin gene type. These findings demonstrate that a range of bacterial genotypes can constitute the bacterial population within a commercial poultry flock, with the most likely sources of these types being multiple environmental exposure and/or genetic drift within the population. This degree of diversity must be considered in epidemiological analyses which utilize genetic typing methods that investigate Campylobacter contamination of any food source, including poultry, to ensure that the total gene pool for C. jejuni is evaluated.
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