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item Berrang, Mark
item Northcutt, Julie
item Cason Jr, John

Submitted to: Poultry Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/20/2004
Publication Date: 7/20/2004
Citation: Berrang, M.E., Northcutt, J.K., Cason Jr, J.A. 2004. Recovery of campylobacter from broiler feces during extended storage of transport cages. Poultry Science. 83(7):1213-1217.

Interpretive Summary: Broiler chickens are transported from the farm to processing plants in cages. During the time broilers are in the cages they soil the cage with feces. Campylobacter, a human bacterial pathogen, may be present in the feces. Campylobacter in cages can cross contaminate the next broilers placed into the same cages. Most broiler companies in the U. S. do not wash cages between uses because it is expensive, time consuming and of questionable use to remove bacteria like Campylobacter. When plants are closed for the weekend or other reasons, cages are generally stored empty for days at a time. The goal of this study was to determine if Campylobacter can survive in feces left in broiler transport cages for up to 48 hours. Broilers were allowed to soil cages, and then removed. The empty cages were stored under a roof and fecal matter was sampled at time intervals of 30 min, 2, 4, 6, 8 24 and 48 hours. Initially, more than 10 million cells of Campylobacter were detected per gram of feces; this level did not change during the first 8 hours of storage. However, after 24 hours the numbers were significantly lower, about 10 thousand per gram. After 48 hours, numbers of Campylobacter were estimated to be about 1 cell per g of feces. These data show that while the numbers of Campylobacter per gram of feces decreases during storage of soiled cages, the pathogen is not completely eradicated.

Technical Abstract: Feces deposited in transport cages by a Campylobacter-positive flock can cause the spread of Campylobacter to subsequent flocks placed in the same cages. This experiment was designed to determine the effect of extended cage storage on the viability of Campylobacter in feces deposited on the cage floor during commercial transport and holding. After 4 h of feed withdrawal but not water, Campylobacter-positive broilers were caught by commercial catching crews, placed into three new commercial cages and transported with the rest of the flock to the holding area at a commercial processing facility. Broilers were allowed to remain in the cages for eight hours before being unloaded by facility personnel. Following removal of the broilers, empty cages were held under a shed and sampled at 7 time intervals for the presence of viable Campylobacter. Cages were sampled removing all the feces out of a different randomly assigned compartment in each cage at: 0.5, 2, 4, 6, 8, 24, and 48 h after unloading. No decrease in Campylobacter numbers was noted through 8 h of storage. After 24 h in both replications, Campylobacter was detected in 2 of 3 compartments by direct plating and detected in the third by enrichment only. After 48 h, Campylobacter was detected in one replication by enrichment only, and was not detected in the second replication at all. Storing soiled transport cages for 48 h between uses results in lower numbers of Campylobacter in feces, but may not eliminate Campylobacter entirely. Due to cage cost and space requirements, routine cage storage between uses would not be practical.