Fate and ecology of campylobacters in a southeastern Georgia watershed
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Campylobacters comprise a group of closely related gram-negative bacteria that primarily colonize the gastrointestinal tracts of a variety of host species and are the most common cause of bacterial enteritis globally. Although assumed to be a food-borne disease, the distinct seasonality in cases suggests that environmental exposures also may be important. In this study we show that environmental detection of waterborne campylobacter was highly associated with discharge from a wastewater treatment plant and moderately associated with run-off in agrarian reaches of the watershed. Despite a low persistence under warm temperatures in vitro, campylobacters were more frequently isolated and present in larger numbers during the summer months, which suggests that loading from both human and domestic animal waste may be high in this watershed. In summary, campylobacters were frequently present along agrarian and sewage impacted stretches of streams in southeastern Georgia and may be an underappreciated exposure source for clinical cases.