The cultural characteristics of 1220 Campylobacter strains from a variety of sources are described. Forty-two were identified as Campylobacter fetus ssp. fetus (Véron & Chatelain, 1973), 1120 as members of the C. jejuni/C. coli group, and 58 did not conform to any known description. Sixteen of the latter strains had the basic characteristics of C. fetus but were atypical in certain other respects. The other 42 strains had the thermophilic characteristics of the jejuni/coli group, but were resistant to nalidixie acid and had other features in common; it is possible that they represent a new species. They were isolated from 19% of locally caught wild seagulls but only occasionally from other animals and man.
Growth at 25 °C clearly distinguished strains of C. fetus from those of the jejuni/coli and the nalidixie acid-resistant thermophilic (NARTC) groups. Maximum growth temperature was less reliable for this purpose, and 43 °C was found to be better than the traditional 42 °C. By arranging the results of three tests (tolerance to 2,3,5-triphenyltetrazolium chloride, growth at 30·5 and 45·5 °C) serially in the form of a schema comprising nine categories, the jejuni/coli strains fell into two main groups resembling the Institute Pasteur C. jejuni and C. coli type strains, but these groups could not be clearly defined owing to the existence of strains with intermediate characteristics.
Most of the strains from cattle resembled C. jejuni, whereas those from pigs resembled C. coli; poultry strains occupied a more intermediate position. Strains from man and other animals were of mixed types, but most human strains resembled C. jejuni rather than C. coli. The type distribution pattern that most nearly matched that of human indigenous strains was given by a half-and-half mixture of strains from cattle and poultry.