Campylobacter jejuni is a leading cause of bacterial gastroenteritis in humans, and contamination of poultry has been implicated in illness. The bacteria are fastidious in terms of their temperature requirements, being unable to grow below ca. 31°C, but have been found to be physiologically active at lower temperatures and to tolerate exposure to low temperatures in a strain-dependent manner. In this study, 19 field isolates of C. jejuni (10 of clinical and 9 of poultry origin) were studied for their ability to tolerate prolonged exposure to low temperature (4°C). Although substantial variability was found among different strains, clinical isolates tended to be significantly more likely to remain viable following cold exposure than poultry-derived strains. In contrast, the relative degree of tolerance of the bacteria to freezing at -20°C and freeze-thawing was strain specific but independent of strain source (poultry versus clinical) and degree of cold (4°C) tolerance.
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