Campylobacter is a gram negative bacterial genus which is a leading cause of gastroenteritis around the world. Infection with Campylobacter bacteria is formally known as campylobacteriosis. In most cases, the infection clears up on its own within a few days without any complications, but it can lead to serious complications or health problems in some patients. Many people have been infected with bacteria from this genus at some point in their lives, thanks to the ubiquity of Campylobacter in the world.
Two particular species have been fingered as frequent culprits behind cases of gastroenteritis: Campylobacter coli and Campylobacter jejuni. In both cases, the bacteria is normally found in fecal material, and it is ingested through poorly-sanitized water, improperly handled food, and contaminated meat. Symptoms of campylobacteriosis emerge within one to three days of infection in most cases.
Diarrhea is the most common symptom of Campylobacter infection, often associated with vomiting, nausea, and blood in the stool. The patient may also experience abdominal cramping, and mild fever, and sweats. As a general rule, the patient does not require advanced medical care, but an ample supply of clean water is necessary to prevent dehydration. Eating soups can also be helpful, as soup is easy to digest while providing hydration and nutrition.
The infection clears within seven to 10 days in most cases. If the symptoms are severe, a doctor may prescribe antibiotics. Antibiotics will also be used in patients with compromised immune systems, as the Campylobacter bacteria could potentially enter the bloodstream and cause severe complications. While the patient is actively infected, it is important to observe good hygiene, especially hand washing, after having contact with the patient.
In rare cases, Campylobacter infection can cause Guillain-Barré syndrome or arthritis, usually weeks or months after the initial infection. Most infections with this spiral-shaped bacteria come and go without any long term health problems, however. The risk of infection can be greatly reduced by drinking clean water, washing hands regularly, and using food from clean and dependable sources. This will also reduce the risk of infection with other food-borne bacteria. Uncooked chicken in particular appears to be a harbor for this bacteria, along with other undesirable organisms like Salmonella.
A common source of bacterial infection from food is eating out at restaurants which are not scrupulous about hygiene. Many regional health departments post the results of their inspections publicly for people who would prefer to patronize restaurants with a good record, and in some cities, restaurants are required to post a health department-issued letter grade in their windows for the benefit of consumers.