Since 2005 campylobacteriosis has been the most commonly reported gastrointestinal infection in humans in the European Union with more than 200,000 cases annually. Also Campylobacter is one of the most frequent cause of food-borne outbreaks with 319 outbreaks reported to EFSA, involving 1,254 cases of disease and 125 hospitalizations in EU in 2019. Importantly poultry meat is one of the most common source for the sporadic Campylobacter infections and for strong-evidence campylobacteriosis food-borne outbreaks in EU.
In present study, 429 fresh broiler chicken meat samples of Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian origin were collected from Estonian retail level and analyzed on a monthly basis between September 2018 and October 2019. Campylobacter spp. were isolated in 141 (32.9%) of 429 broiler chicken meat samples. Altogether 3 (1.8%), 49 (36.8%), and 89 (66.9%) of Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian origin broiler chicken meat samples were positive for Campylobacter spp. Among Campylobacter-positive samples, 62 (14.5%) contained Campylobacter spp. below 100 CFU/g and in 28 (6.5%) samples the count of Campylobacter spp. exceeded 1,000 CFU/g. A high prevalence of Campylobacter spp. in fresh broiler chicken meat of Lithuanian and Latvian origin in Estonian retail was observed. Additionally, 22 different multilocus sequence types were identified among 55 genotyped isolates of broiler chicken meat and human origin, of which 45 were Campylobacter jejuni (C. jejuni) and 10 were Campylobacter coli (C. coli). The most prevalent multilocus sequence types among C. jejuni was ST2229 and among C. coli ST832, ST872. C. jejuni genotypes found in both broiler chicken meat and human origin samples were ST122, ST464, ST7355, and ST9882, which indicates that imported fresh broiler chicken meat is likely the cause of human campylobacteriosis in Estonia.