Genomic comparison of Campylobacter spp. and their potential for zoonotic transmission between birds, primates, and livestock

Allison M. Weis, Dylan B. Storey, Conor C. Taff, Andrea K. Townsend, Bihua C. Huang, Nguyet T. Kong, Kristin A Clothier, Abigail Spinner, Barbara A. Byrn, Bart C Weimer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Campylobacter is the leading cause of human gastroenteritis worldwide. Wild birds, including American crows, are abundant in urban, suburban, and agricultural settings and are likely zoonotic vectors of Campylobacter. Their proximity to humans and livestock increases the potential spreading of Campylobacter via crows between the environment, livestock, and humans. However, no studies have definitively demonstrated that crows are a vector for pathogenic Campylobacter. We used genomics to evaluate the zoonotic and pathogenic potential of Campylobacter from crows to other animals with 184 isolates obtained from crows, chickens, cows, sheep, goats, humans, and nonhuman primates. Whole-genome analysis uncovered two distinct clades of Campylobacter jejuni genotypes; the first contained genotypes found only in crows, while a second genotype contained "generalist" genomes that were isolated from multiple host species, including isolates implicated in human disease, primate gastroenteritis, and livestock abortion. Two major β-lactamase genes were observed frequently in these genomes (oxa-184, 55%, and oxa-61, 29%), where oxa-184 was associated only with crows and oxa-61 was associated with generalists. Mutations in gyrA, indicative of fluoroquinolone resistance, were observed in 14% of the isolates. Tetracycline resistance (tetO) was present in 22% of the isolates, yet it occurred in 91% of the abortion isolates. Virulence genes were distributed throughout the genomes; however, cdtC alleles recapitulated the crow-only and generalist clades. A specific cdtC allele was associated with abortion in livestock and was concomitant with tetO. These findings indicate that crows harboring a generalist C. jejuni genotype may act as a vector for the zoonotic transmission of Campylobacter.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7165-7175
Number of pages11
JournalApplied and Environmental Microbiology
Issue number24
StatePublished - 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Food Science
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Ecology


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