An article co-authored by Assistant Professor of Biology Andrea Townsend was recently published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology. “Influence of host ecology and behavior on Campylobacter jejuni prevalence and environmental contamination risk in a synanthropic wild bird species” describes seasonal variation in the prevalence of Campylobacter infection of wild crows in Davis, Calif.
The paper also documents how the crows’ social behavior and movement patterns could influence pathogen transmission.
“Although most people tend to think of Salmonella when they think of ‘food poisoning,’ Campylobacter is actually the leading cause of food-borne diarrhea in humans,” Townsend noted.
In the paper, Townsend, along with researchers from the University of California, Davis and Cornell University, showed that more than half of the crows sampled in the study were shedding Campylobacter in their feces throughout the year.
Even with these very high rates of infection, it is unclear how important crows are in human disease. “The majority of Campylobacter isolates that we collected from crows were ‘crow-specific’—they probably don’t infect humans,” Townsend said.