A national investigation of the prevalence and diversity of thermophilic Campylobacter species in agricultural watersheds in Canada
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The occurrence and diversity of thermophilic Campylobacter species (C. jejuni, coli, and lari) were studied in water samples from four river basins located across Canada. These basins located in Quebec (Bras d'Henri), Alberta (Oldman), Ontario (South Nation), and British Columbia (Sumas) represented some of the most intensive farming areas in Canada for hog, beef cattle, dairy cattle, and poultry, respectively. This study analyzed 769 water samples collected from 23 monitoring sites with agricultural influence, and four reference sites with limited or no agricultural influence. Water samples were collected bi-weekly over two years and analyzed for Campylobacter using a semi-quantitative minimum probable number (MPN) enrichment protocol. Putative isolates were confirmed by genus- and species-specific multiplex polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assays. A total of 377 (49%) water samples were positive for campylobacters with 355 samples having a cell density ranging from 4 to 4000 MPN L(-1). Campylobacters were more common at agricultural than reference sites in each river basin, although this difference was not significant in the Oldman and South Nation (p > 0.05). Campylobacter was significantly more common in the Bras d'Henri and Sumas (63%) compared to the South Nation (45%) and Oldman (33%) River basins (p < 0.05). C. jejuni, C. coli and C. lari were detected in each river basin, and these species occurred in 45% (n = 168), 34% (n = 128) and 19% (n = 73), of all Campylobacter positive samples, respectively. The remaining Campylobacter positive water samples without these three species (n = 67; 18%) were identified as other Campylobacter species. C. jejuni was the predominant species occurring in the Sumas, Oldman and South Nation River basins. However, in the Bras d'Henri River basin with intensive hog production, C. coli was the predominant species. This study found campylobacters to be common in some agricultural systems with intensive livestock farming activities, and different river basins could have strikingly different profiles of either C. jejuni or C. coli as the predominant waterborne thermophilic Campylobacter species.
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