The Campylobacter Culprit

Beate Skånseng has become very familiar with chickens in recent years. It is the bacterial flora in the digestive system of these small, yellow balls of fluff that interest her, and that is because chicken is the primary cause of humans becoming ill from Campylobacter.


Beate defends her dissertation on 7 February, after which she will continue at Matforsk as a post-doc.

Beate Skånseng’s doctoral dissertation involves looking at how Campylobacter jejuni establishes colonies in a chicken. This knowledge is necessary to have in order to be able to reduce the incidence of the bacteria in chicken.

Faster detection of dangerous bacteria

DNA-based methods are important to being able to follow Campylobacter jejuni and the intestinal microflora in chickens on the overall. Beate has contributed to developing a new and revolutionary DNA-based analysis method, making it possible to follow many strains of bacteria in the intestines simultaneously.
"Through this new method we have looked at how at total of 7 Campylobacter strains establish colonies in chickens. Previously, it was only possible to follow one, possibly up to two bacterial strains simultaneously," says Beate Skånseng. By being able to follow multiple strains at the same time a much more correct picture of reality is obtained, because chickens are always vulnerable to several Campylobacter strains. In order to be able to reduce the incidence of Campylobacter in chicken, it is important to know how these bacteria actually behave in a "natural" model.

The chicken’s own immune system

"When I started the work, there were theories that if you treated the chicken with "good" bacteria, then you would be fighting Campylobacter. We did an infection experiment in which we had two groups of chickens. One group had natural intestinal flora and the other one was treated with Broilact, which is a product with "good" bacteria. All the chickens were then infected with 7 Campylobacter strains. Quite surprisingly, it turned out that the addition of "good" bacteria did not reduce the incidence of Campylobacter or alter the colonization pattern. "This resulted in one of our primary findings: it is the chicken’s own immune system that is of significance to Campylobacter colonisation in the intestines, and not the background flora in the intestines," explains Beate Skånseng. Work is continuing on new, promising methods for reducing the incidence of Campylobacter in chicken.

DNA cleaning

DNA-based methods are an important set of tools for studying societies of bacteria in different environments, such as in intestines. DNA-based methods have the characteristic that they are able to capture bacteria that cannot be cultivated. In connection with this, we have also developed an automated system for the DNA cleaning, which is necessary in order to remove substances that may affect further analyses. This is normally a labour-intensive process, but many samples have now become easier to analyse.

The research fellowship has been financed by the Research Council of Norway. Nortura is an important co-operating partner.

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