Synergism between DON and Campylobacter: A challenge for food safety

Monday, May 9, 2022

Synergism between DON and Campylobacter: A challenge for food safety

Lorran Baeumle Gabardo



The close relationship between human health and the pathogenic bacteria present in animal microbiota is a long-standing concern for food safety and the animal food industry. Over the years, pressure has increased to guarantee sanitary standards and prevent risks to human health when consuming poultry products. For this reason, knowledge about Campylobacter, the world's leading foodborne pathogen, is essential for poultry producers.


Campylobacter: an increasing risk

Campylobacter is the principal pathogen-food cause of human gastroenteritis and so negatively impacts the agri-food economy.


A study published by Kaakoush et al. in 2015, suggests that campylobacteriosis is on the rise. Between 2007 and 2013, human outbreaks have increased by 10 to 100 cases in various countries around the world. In Canada, the total number of Campylobacter infections is estimated to be about 145,350 cases per year, while Japan counts 1,512 cases per 100,000 people per year and New Zealand has a rate of 161.5 per 100,000 people.


Campylobacter is highly important in poultry industry since it is a natural inhabitant of cecal microbiota of birds.  Ingestion of contaminated poultry derivatives is the main cause of campylobacteriosis outbreaks.


Although Campylobacter can be reduced to some extent by antimicrobials, they still might not be reduced to a safe level. A study published by Crim et al. in 2014, showed that in the USA, the surveillance system, new regulations and control strategies have contributed to the decline of several foodborne pathogens such as Salmonella, Listeria, and E. coli from 2006 to 2014, but not Campylobacter and Vibrio. Additionally, the use of antimicrobials in the animal industry is known to contribute to antimicrobial resistance in humans.


Mycotoxins' negative impacts on Campylobacter

A new strategy of poultry producers is reducing the predisposing factors for Campylobacter. Mycotoxins are among these predisposing factors due to their ability to make the immune system more vulnerable, potentially resulting in secondary infections decreasing the overall health of flocks.


Deoxynivalenol (DON) is especially correlated with this issue, since it can have dramatic effects on the gut and immune system. The disruption of intestinal integrity may lead to an increased likelihood of pathogenic bacteria entering in the bloodstream and, consequently, increased susceptibility to diseases. According to the DSM Mycotoxin Survey (download the full report here), in 2021 DON was the most widespread trichothecene mycotoxin in feeds (Table 1).



 Table 1: DON shows high prevalence and contamination levels worldwide (Source: BIOMIN World Mycotoxin Survey, 2021)


It is well documented that DON can negatively impact common problems in the animal industry such as increasing Salmonella typhimurium issues in pigs, facilitating the entrance of pathogenic E. coli strain into the bloodstream and predisposing broilers to necrotic enteritis.


A recent paper published by Ruhnau, strengthens the hypothesis that DON can also influence the infection profile of Campylobacter jejuni in broilers, a novel subject so far. The co-exposure of DON in poultry feed and C. jejuni showed a considerably increased presence of pathogen loads in the gut as well as increases in gut permeability of the birds.


The study showed that a challenge of C. jejuni or DON negatively impacts the gut barrier function, which reflects overall animal health and performance. The co-exposure of DON and C. jejuni significantly increased the influx of the biomarker in the intestine, meaning an impairment on the digestive and immune functions of these birds.

Moreover, the synergistic effect between DON and C. jejuni also enhanced the C. jejuni colonization in the gut of broilers. DON destroys the gut structure which provides favourable conditions for Campylobacter growth.

These studies demonstrate the implications of mycotoxins, not only on performance parameters of broilers but on their connection to food safety. Currently no effective methods are available to completely eliminate Campylobacter either in poultry farms or slaughter plants. Therefore, the control of predisposing factors, such as mycotoxins, is crucial in preventing human outbreaks and maintaining the safety of poultry production.


Mycotoxin mitigation strategies
Three strategies are considered effective to mitigate the risk of mycotoxins on the immune status of the animals:
    ·  Adsorption: Binding adsorbable mycotoxins, such as aflatoxins, in the gastrointestinal tract.
    ·  Biotransformation: A trusted solution that irreversibly degrades non-adsorbable mycotoxins (including DON, zearalenone and fumonisins) into non-toxic compounds.

    ·  Bioprotection: Supporting the functionality of the liver and gut, which are the main organs affected by mycotoxins.

Establishing a strategic plan to correctly identify and counteract mycotoxins, specifically DON, is key to reducing Campylobacter risk and improving food safety in poultry production.


Please click the links below for more information about:

    ·  Mycotoxin Info (

    ·  DSM Mycotoxin Hub (

    ·  Mycotoxin Deactivators that support animal health performance (

    ·  Mycotoxin Deactivators (

    ·  DSM Mycotoxin Online Tools (

    ·  DSM Mycotoxin Survey & Indicator (

    ·  DSM Mycotoxin Risk Management App (

    ·  DSM Mycotoxin Toolbox (



For more of the article, please click here.

Article made possible through the contribution of Lorran Baeumle Gabardo and DSM

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