The Poultry-Associated Microbiome: Network Analysis and Farm-to-Fork Characterizations
Microbial communities associated with agricultural animals are important for animal health, food safety, and public health. Here we combine high-throughput sequencing (HTS), quantitative-PCR assays, and network analysis to profile the poultry-associated microbiome and important pathogens at various stages of commercial poultry production from the farm to the consumer. Analysis of longitudinal data following two flocks from the farm through processing showed a core microbiome containing multiple sequence types most closely related to genera known to be pathogenic for animals and/or humans, including Campylobacter, Clostridium, and Shigella. After the final stage of commercial poultry processing, taxonomic richness was ca. 2–4 times lower than the richness of fecal samples from the same flocks and Campylobacter abundance was significantly reduced. Interestingly, however, carcasses sampled at 48 hr after processing harboured the greatest proportion of unique taxa (those not encountered in other samples), significantly more than expected by chance. Among these were anaerobes such as Prevotella, Veillonella, Leptrotrichia, and multiple Campylobacter sequence types. Retail products were dominated by Pseudomonas, but also contained 27 other genera, most of which were potentially metabolically active and encountered in on-farm samples. Network analysis was focused on the foodborne pathogen Campylobacter and revealed a majority of sequence types with no significant interactions with other taxa, perhaps explaining the limited efficacy of previous attempts at competitive exclusion of Campylobacter. These data represent the first use of HTS to characterize the poultry microbiome across a series of farm-to-fork samples and demonstrate the utility of HTS in monitoring the food supply chain and identifying sources of potential zoonoses and interactions among taxa in complex communities.