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Campylobacteriosis is an infection by the Campylobacter bacterium, most commonly C. jejuni. It is among the most common bacterial infections of humans, often a foodborne illness. It produces an inflammatory, sometimes bloody, diarrhea or dysentery syndrome, mostly including cramps, fever and pain.
It is usually contracted through poorly handled food. Actually, it’s one reason why one should carefully handle raw meat to avoid contamination and make sure meat is cooked to proper temperatures.
The Campylobacter bacteria is commonly known as a foodborne pathogen that may also be in the feces of animals carrying the bacteria. In addition to chicken and other poultry, the pathogen has been found in cattle, pigs, sheep, ostriches, shellfish, cats and dogs.
While many people are able to ride out these relatively mild infections, young children, the elderly and those with suppressed immune systems are at a greater risk for complications and even death.
Campylobacter infections are not contagious, at least in the traditional sense of airborne germs going from one human to another.
Rather, campylobacteriosis is what’s known as a zoonosis, meaning a disease that occurs as a result of contact with contaminated animal products (meat, milk, etc.).
The only way to contract an infection caused by Campylobacter from another human or an infected live animal (such as a pet) would be to come in contact with its feces.
The prodromal symptoms are fever, headache, and myalgia, which can be severe, lasting as long as 24 hours. After 1–5 days, typically, these are followed by diarrhea (as many as 10 watery, frequently bloody, bowel movements per day) or dysentery, cramps, abdominal pain, and fever as high as 40 °C (104 °F). In most people, the illness lasts for 2–10 days. It is classified as invasive/inflammatory diarrhea, also described as bloody diarrhea or dysentery.
There are other diseases showing similar symptoms. For instance, abdominal pain and tenderness may be very localized, mimicking acute appendicitis. Furthermore, Helicobacter pylori is closely related to Campylobacter and causes peptic ulcer disease.
Campylobacteriosis is caused by Campylobacter bacteria (curved or spiral, motile, non–spore-forming, Gram-negative rods). The disease is usually caused by C. jejuni, a spiral and comma shaped bacterium normally found in cattle, swine, and birds, where it is nonpathogenic, but the illness can also be caused by C. coli (also found in cattle, swine, and birds), C. upsaliensis (found in cats and dogs) and C. lari (present in seabirds in particular).
One effect of campylobacteriosis is tissue injury in the gut. The sites of tissue injury include the jejunum, the ileum, and the colon. C jejuni appears to achieve this by invading and destroying epithelial cells.
C. jejuni can also cause a latent autoimmune effect on the nerves of the legs, which is usually seen several weeks after a surgical procedure of the abdomen. The effect is known as an acute idiopathic demyelinating polyneuropathy (AIDP), i.e. Guillain–Barré syndrome, in which one sees symptoms of ascending paralysis, dysaesthesias usually below the waist, and, in the later stages, respiratory failure.
Some strains of C jejuni produce a cholera-like enterotoxin, which is important in the watery diarrhea observed in infections. The organism produces diffuse, bloody, edematous, and exudative enteritis. In a small number of cases, the infection may be associated with hemolytic uremic syndrome and thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura through a poorly understood mechanism.
Complications include toxic megacolon, dehydration and sepsis. Such complications generally occur in young children (< 1 year of age) and immunocompromised people. A chronic course of the disease is possible; this disease process is likely to develop without a distinct acute phase. Chronic campylobacteriosis features a long period of sub-febrile temperature and asthenia; eye damage, arthritis, endocarditis may develop if infection is untreated.
Occasional deaths occur in young, previously healthy individuals because of blood volume depletion (due to dehydration), and in persons who are elderly or immunocompromised.
Some individuals (1–2 in 100,000 cases) develop Guillain–Barré syndrome, in which the nerves that join the spinal cord and brain to the rest of the body are damaged, sometimes permanently. This occurs only with infection of C. jejuni and C. upsaliensis.
In patients with HIV, infections may be more frequent, may cause prolonged bouts of dirty brown diarrhea, and may be more commonly associated with bacteremia and antibiotic resistance. In participants of unprotected anal intercourse, campylobacteriosis is more localized to the distal end of the colon and may be termed a proctocolitis. The severity and persistence of infection in patients with AIDS and hypogammaglobulinemia indicates that both cell-mediated and humoral immunity are important in preventing and terminating infection.
Campylobacter organisms can be detected by performing a Gram stain of a stool sample with high specificity and a sensitivity of ~60%, but are most often diagnosed by stool culture. Fecal leukocytes should be present and indicate the diarrhea to be inflammatory in nature. Methods currently being developed to detect the presence of campylobacter organisms include antigen testing via an EIA or PCR.
The infection is usually self-limiting, and in most cases, symptomatic treatment by liquid and electrolyte replacement is enough in human infections.
Antibiotic treatment only has a marginal effect on the duration of symptoms, and its use is not recommended except in high-risk patients with clinical complications.
Erythromycin can be used in children, and tetracycline in adults. Some studies show, however, that erythromycin rapidly eliminates Campylobacter from the stool without affecting the duration of illness. Nevertheless, children with dysentery due to C. jejuni benefit from early treatment with erythromycin. Treatment with antibiotics, therefore, depends on the severity of symptoms. Quinolones are effective if the organism is sensitive, but high rates of quinolone use in livestock means that quinolones are now largely ineffective.
Antimotility agents, such as loperamide, can lead to prolonged illness or intestinal perforation in any invasive diarrhea, and should be avoided. Trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole and ampicillin are ineffective against Campylobacter.
In the past, poultry infections were often treated by mass administration of enrofloxacin and sarafloxacin for single instances of infection. The FDA banned this practice, as it promoted the development of fluoroquinolone-resistant populations. A major broad-spectrum fluoroquinolone used in humans is ciprofloxacin.
Currently growing resistance of the Campylobacter to fluoroquinolones and macrolides is of a major concern.
In the meantime, it can be useful to use antibacterial essential oils to fight Campylobacter infection. Thyme oil, clove oil, orange oil and bergamot oil have all been found to have bacteria-killing benefits against Campylobacter.
When using essential oils, be careful to follow safety instructions. For example, with bergamot oil, monitor your blood sugar if you have diabetes, as it may affect these levels. Clove oil shouldn’t be taken internally for more than two weeks, and thyme oil is not safe for pregnant women or people with high blood pressure or epilepsy.
The number one preventive measure for Campylobacter infections is to use safe food preparation methods and thoroughly cook all your food. Less than 500 Campylobacter germs are required to infect your body, which means it could happen with as little as one drop of juice from raw chicken.
Because it’s possible to contract this infection from a sick pet, do your best to adopt animals that are happy and alert. Sluggishness, abnormal eating and diarrhea can be early signs of infection in dogs and cats. See a veterinarian within a short period of time after adopting an animal to make sure the animal is in optimal health, and always keep the pet’s living area as clean as possible.
Campylobacteriosis is usually self-limited without any mortality (assuming proper hydration is maintained). However, there are several possible complications.
Disclaimer: This information is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advise or help. It is always best to consult with a Physician about serious health concerns. This information is in no way intended to diagnose or prescribe remedies.This is purely for educational purpose.