Eighty-two chickens purchased at 11 retailers (supplied by 12 wholesalers) in the south of England were cultured for Campylobacter jejuni by a method involving total immersion. The organism was isolated from 22 (48%) of 46 fresh birds, 12 of 12 uneviscerated (New York dressed) birds, but only 1 of 24 frozen birds. Viable counts of up to 1·5 × 106/chicken were obtained from fresh birds and 2·4 × 107/chicken from uneviscerated birds. Surface swabbing of breasts, thighs, wings and vents of fresh chickens showed that contamination was generally distributed over the carcasses. Salmonellas were found in only 2 of 69 of the fresh chickens.
The prevalence of several Lior and Penner C. jejuni serogroups was similar in chickens and sporadic human cases of enteritis. Penner serogroup 4 (mostly of Lior serogroup 1) was found in 26% of human isolates and 14% of chicken isolates.
The rising incidence of campylobacter enteritis during the last 6 years could well be a reflection of the increasing proportion of fresh chickens consumed over that period (32% higher in 1986 than in 1981).
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