Using whole genome sequencing (WGS), a recent study led by Michigan State University (MSU) has demonstrated widespread antimicrobial resistance (AMR) among foodborne Campylobacter jejuni, and the ability to trace the origins of specific strains.

The Michigan Department of Health and MSU set up a surveillance system for campylobacteriosis that allowed the researchers to collect 217 C. jejuni isolates from patients with campylobacteriosis from 2011–2014. Among the 214 strains recovered, 135 (63.1  percent) were genetically resistant to at least one antibiotic.

The researchers were also able to trace strains to determine whether they came from a specific animal or were found in multiple species of hosts, and found that most patients in Michigan were infected with strains linked to chicken or cattle. Additionally, campylobacteriosis cases occurred more often in rural areas, suggesting that exposure to farm animals is an important factor.

By focusing on cases in Michigan, the researchers were able to glean insights specific to their state that may be overlooked in broader analyses. For example, Michigan’s unique ecological and agricultural attributes may impact how foodborne pathogens survive and spread in certain hosts and environments.

The project was conducted with funding from the Michigan Sequencing Academic Partnership for Public Health Innovation and Response (MI-SAPPHIRE), a grant awarded by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, which is also supported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).