December 15, 2017

Campylobacter Uses Chicken “Juice” to Form Biofilms

A new study by the Institute of Food Research has shown how the bacteria Campylobacter uses “chicken juice” to persist in the food chain, attaching to surfaces and forming biofilms that make it more impervious to cleaning. Helen Brown, a Ph.D. student at the Institute, led the study.

Pieces of raw chicken meatScientists collected liquids produced from defrosting chickens, and found that Campylobacter used those liquids to form biofilms┬ájust like Salmonella bacteria, which are special structures that help the bacteria protect the colony from environmental threats. Brown said in a statement, “we have discovered that this increase in biofilm formation was due to chicken juice coating the surfaces we used with a protein-rich film. This film then makes it much easier for the Campylobacter bacteria to attach to the surface, and it provides them with an additional rich food source.”

The study emphasizes the important of thorough and complete cleaning of food preparation surfaces when working with raw chicken to limit pathogenic bacterial growth. Campylobacter aren’t as hardy as Listeria bacteria, for instance, and are sensitive to oxygen, so research is conducted to understand how they survive outside of the chicken’s intestinal tract, which is their natural habitat.

Thorough cooking will kill Campylobacter, but cross-contamination and undercooking sickens 1.3 million Americans and 500,000 in the U.K. every year. Reducing this number is the number one priority of the Food Standards Agency in the U.K. This study may give researchers new ways of cleaning to limit the bacteria’s growth and development.

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