Caused by the Campylobacter bacteria, campylobacteriosis is the most common human form of gastroenteritis in the world. While many cases of campylobacteriosis go unreported or undiagnosed, the CDC estimates that this type of food poisoning affects over 1.3 million people every year. The illness tends to be more common in the summer months and affects young people and infants more than older adults.
While campylobacteriosis is generally not dangerous, it can cause life-threatening complications in people with compromised immune systems, as well as in elderly people and very young infants. The disease is particularly dangerous in developing countries, where a lack of clean drinking water and food safety regulations are often a problem and where diarrheal diseases are often rampant; in these areas, children under the age of two are particularly at risk of death from dehydration caused by chronic diarrhea.
Here are some of the most commonly asked questions about the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention ofcampylobacteriosis.
- How do people get campylobacteriosis? Campylobacteriosis is a food-borne illness, which means it is spread through consuming food or water contaminated with the Campylobacter bacteria. Campylobacteria is most often contracted through raw or under-cooked poultry or meat; cross-contamination of other food products, such as fruits and vegetables, by contaminated meat can also be a cause. Campylobacter bacteria are also found in contaminated water and in unpasteurized milk and dairy products.
- What are the symptoms of campylobacteriosis? Campylobacteriosis most often presents with diarrhea, abdominal pain, cramps, fever, and vomiting. Symptoms typically appear within 2-5 days after exposure to the Campylobacter bacteria.
- How do I know if I have campylobacteriosis? Campylobacteriosis is just one of a plethora of infections that causes gastroenteritis and as such can be tricky to diagnose. Your doctor will often give a tentative diagnosis based on your symptoms. For more serious cases, a stool sample will be taken and tested for the Campylobacter bacteria.
- What is the typical treatment for campylobacteriosis? Most people with campylobacteriosis will not require formal treatment; your doctor will most likely recommend rest and plenty of fluids. In more serious cases, antibiotics may be used and intravenous fluids may be given to prevent dehydration. There are typically no long-term consequences from campylobacteriosis, but it is possible to develop Guillain-Barré syndrome as a result ofcampylobacteriosis infection. Guillain-Barré is a rare disease that occurs when the body’s immune system begins to attack its own nervous system; the CDC estimates that around 1 in 1000 cases of campylobacteriosis leads to Guillain-Barré and that around 40 percent of Guillain-Barré cases seen in the United States may be attributable to campylobacteriosis.
- How can I prevent campylobacteriosisinfection? Following proper hand-washing and cooking procedures is key in preventing campylobacteriosis. Wash your hands with warm soap and water before handling any food, and wash your hands again thoroughly after handling any raw meat products. Always cook meat to a safe internal temperature; this means 165oF for poultry and around 145oF for pork and beef products. To prevent cross-contamination of other foods with raw meat, use a separate cutting board for meat and clean all cutting boards, cooking utensils, and kitchen surfaces after preparing raw meat.
- What kinds of tests are used to test forcampylobacteriosis? Stool samples will most commonly undergo testing to detect campylobacteriosis antigens. One such antigen test is an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), like the IVD Campylobacter Fecal Antigen detection Microwell ELISA.
Center for Disease Control (CDC). “Food Safety: Campylobacter.” Available at
FoodSafety.gov. “Food Poisoning: Campylobacter.” Available at
World Health Organization (WHO). “Campylobacter Fact Sheet.” Available at