Campylobacter jejuni, a major cause of bacterial foodborne illnesses, is considered highly susceptible to environmental stresses. In this study, we extensively investigated the stress tolerance of 121 clinical strains of C. jejuni against 5 stress conditions (aerobic stress, disinfectant exposure, freeze-thaw, heat treatment, and osmotic stress) that this pathogenic bacterium might encounter during foodborne transmission to humans. In contrast to our current perception about high stress sensitivity of C. jejuni, a number of clinical strains of C. jejuni were highly tolerant to multiple stresses. We performed population genetics analysis by using comparative genomic fingerprinting and showed that multistress-tolerant strains of C. jejuni constituted distinct clades. The comparative genomic fingerprinting subtypes belonging to multistress-tolerant clades were more frequently implicated in human infections than those in stress-sensitive clades. We identified unique stress-tolerant C. jejuni clones and showed the role of stress tolerance in human campylobacteriosis.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This study was supported by a research grant (2016P001R) from Alberta Agriculture and Forestry and the Leaders Opportunity Fund from the Canada Foundation for Innovation.