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Characterizing the immune response of chickens to Campylobacter jejuni (Strain A74C).

  • Mortada, Mohamad1
  • Cosby, Douglas E2
  • Akerele, Gabriel1
  • Ramadan, Nour1
  • Oxford, Jarred1
  • Shanmugasundaram, Revathi3
  • Ng, Theros T1
  • Selvaraj, Ramesh K1
  • 1 Department of Poultry Sciences, The University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, United States of America. , (Georgia)
  • 2 USDA-ARS, Poultry Microbiological Safety and Processing Research Unit, Athens, Georgia, United States of America. , (Georgia)
  • 3 USDA-ARS, Toxicology and Mycotoxin Unit, Athens, Georgia, United States of America. , (Georgia)
Published Article
Public Library of Science
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2021
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0247080
PMID: 33720955


Campylobacter is one of the major foodborne pathogens causing bacterial gastroenteritis worldwide. The immune response of broiler chickens to C. jejuni is under-researched. This study aimed to characterize the immune response of chickens to Campylobacter jejuni colonization. Birds were challenged orally with 0.5 mL of 2.4 x 108 CFU/mL of Campylobacter jejuni or with 0.5 mL of 0.85% saline. Campylobacter jejuni persisted in the ceca of challenged birds with cecal colonization reaching 4.9 log10 CFU/g on 21 dpi. Campylobacter was disseminated to the spleen and liver on 7 dpi and was cleared on 21 dpi from both internal organs. Challenged birds had a significant increase in anti-Campylobacter serum IgY (14&21 dpi) and bile IgA (14 dpi). At 3 dpi, there was a significant suppression in T-lymphocytes derived from the cecal tonsils of birds in the challenge treatment when compared to the control treatment after 72 h of ex vivo stimulation with Con A or C. jejuni. The T-cell suppression on 3 dpi was accompanied by a significant decrease in LITAF, K60, CLAU-2, IL-1β, iNOS, and IL-6 mRNA levels in the ceca and an increase in nitric oxide production from adherent splenocytes of challenged birds. In addition, on 3 dpi, there was a significant increase in CD4+ and CD8+ T lymphocytes in the challenge treatment. On 14 dpi, both pro and anti-inflammatory cytokines were upregulated in the spleen, and a significant increase in CD8+ T lymphocytes in Campylobacter-challenged birds' ceca was observed. The persistence of C. jejuni in the ceca of challenged birds on 21 dpi was accompanied by an increase in IL-10 and LITAF mRNA levels, an increase in MNC proliferation when stimulated ex-vivo with the diluted C. jejuni, an increase in serum specific IgY antibodies, an increase in both CD4+ and CD8+ cells, and a decrease in CD4+:CD8+ cell ratio. The balanced Th1 and Th2 immune responses against C. jejuni might explain the ceca's bacterial colonization and the absence of pathology in Campylobacter-challenged birds. Future studies on T lymphocyte subpopulations should elucidate a pivotal role in the persistence of Campylobacter in the ceca.

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