Air sampling: An alternative tool for low-cost monitoring of pathogens
In the EU, monitoring of Campylobacter in poultry is mandatory according to Directive 2003/99/EC. Current sampling techniques need, however, modernization in order to adapt to automated and molecular detection techniques, reduce the cost of handling and transport, and provide faster laboratory results close to, or in real-time for multi-pathogen testing. At present, on-farm sampling of poultry is done by taking faecal droppings or boot swabs. Upon collecting or hanging chickens for slaughter, cloacae swabbing or caecum sampling is performed. The epidemiology of Campylobacter in the primary production can be studied by sampling poultry and the surrounding environment. A composite sample approach is often applied, pooling multiple swabs. Ventilation shafts, dust on surfaces, floors, transport crates, etc. can be sampled with moist gauze swabs. A novel method to screen for Campylobacter is sampling of air on gelatine filters. DTU has previously demonstrated the presence of Campylobacter in ambient air from broiler flocks in production houses, in some cases significantly earlier than the current conventional and costly methods. Søndergaard et al. (2014) further showed the air sampling approach to be highly sensitive, cost-effective as well as user friendly under various poultry farming conditions. No technical skills are required to perform air sampling in poultry flocks, and the sample is microbiological stable and thus can be shipped for analysis by ordinary mail, rendering the approach suitable for self-regulation. A new EU consortium aims to further develop and validate air sampling as a low-cost and multi-purpose alternative to fecal droppings or boot swabs. The project will provide the European community with a harmonized tool for interventions and codes of best practices.
Jeffrey Hoorfar, DTU-National Food Institute, Copenhagen, Denmark