Distinct Campylobacter fetus lineages adapted as livestock pathogens and human pathobionts in the intestinal microbiota

Gregorio Iraola, Samuel C Forster, Nitin Kumar, Philippe Lehours, Sadjia Bekal, Francisco J García-Peña, Fernando Paolicchi, Claudia Morsella, Helmut Hotzel, Po-Ren Hsueh, Ana Vidal, Simon Lévesque, Wataru Yamazaki, Claudia Balzan, Agueda Vargas, Alessandra Piccirillo, Bonnie Chaban, Janet E Hill, Laura Betancor, Luis ColladoIsabelle Truyers, Anne C Midwinter, Hatice T Dagi, Francis Mégraud, Lucía Calleros, Ruben Pérez, Hugo Naya, Trevor D Lawley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Campylobacter fetus is a venereal pathogen of cattle and sheep, and an opportunistic human pathogen. It is often assumed that C. fetus infection occurs in humans as a zoonosis through food chain transmission. Here we show that mammalian C. fetus consists of distinct evolutionary lineages, primarily associated with either human or bovine hosts. We use whole-genome phylogenetics on 182 strains from 17 countries to provide evidence that C. fetus may have originated in humans around 10,500 years ago and may have "jumped" into cattle during the livestock domestication period. We detect C. fetus genomes in 8% of healthy human fecal metagenomes, where the human-associated lineages are the dominant type (78%). Thus, our work suggests that C. fetus is an unappreciated human intestinal pathobiont likely spread by human to human transmission. This genome-based evolutionary framework will facilitate C. fetus epidemiology research and the development of improved molecular diagnostics and prevention schemes for this neglected pathogen.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1367
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 8 Nov 2017


  • Journal Article


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