What are Campylobacter germs?

Campylobacter bacteria are among the most common causes of bacterial enteritis in addition to salmonella. An infection with these pathogens usually manifests itself through symptoms such as fever, abdominal pain and severe diarrhea. Although the symptoms can sometimes be quite severe, the disease usually heals on its own, so antibiotic therapy is rarely needed. Since the germs are transmitted mainly by spoiled food, Campylobacter infections occur frequently in the summer months.

Transmission of Campylobacter germs and infection pathways

Campylobacter bacteria predominantly infect wild and productive animals such as birds, cattle and pigs. They are then absorbed by humans by eating unpermanent meat or raw milk. Transmission from human to human is rare, but infection via infected pets or contaminated drinking water is possible.

After admission via the gastrointestinal tract, the germs spread in the intestinal wall and form there a poison that triggers the symptoms of the disease.

Symptoms of Campylobacter infection

Two to five days after admission of the pathogen, unspecific symptoms such as headache, body aches and fever first occur. These are followed by the typical symptoms of Campylobacter enteritis:

  • severe abdominal pain and cramps
  • pulpy or watery, rarely bloody diarrhea
  • painful stool urge
  • high fever (up to 40 degrees Celcius)
  • Headache and body aches
  • Fatigue and general malaise

This complaint is particularly evident in the case of an infection with Campylobacter jejuni, the main representative of the bacterial genus Campylobacter.

On the other hand, the related bacterium Campylobacter coli can also cause a course of the disease without any characteristic symptoms: in these cases, diarrhea and only abdominal pain and fever often do not occur.

Course and therapy

In otherwise healthy people, the symptoms often resolve on their own after seven to 14 days. Therefore, the therapy is limited to treating the symptoms with analgesics and antipyretic drugs.

If the diarrhea is very strong, the loss of fluid and mineral should be compensated: Therefore, make sure that you have a drinking volume of about three liters per day, suitable for still mineral water, sweetened tea and meat or vegetable broth. In addition, special electrolyte solutions from the pharmacy can help to compensate for the lack of minerals.

Therapy with an antibiotic is only necessary for particularly severe cases as well as in older or weakened patients.

Possible complications of Campylobacter infection

In rare cases, it can come to a so-called reactive arthritis two to six weeks after a surviving Campylobacter infection as a late consequence. It is a joint inflammation, whose origin is not clearly clarified. However, it is believed that the immune system attacks structures in the joint that resemble bacteria in their surface features.

In addition, Campylobacter bacteria come as a trigger of immune-related nerve inflammation (Guillain-Barre syndrome) into consideration.

Campylobacter fetus, a very rare subset of Campylobacter germs, can enter the bloodstream through the gut and spread throughout the body. This leads in particular to newborns and immunocompromised people to severe diseases such as meningitis (meningitis), inflammation of the heart lining (endocarditis) or phlebitis.

Prevention of Campylobacter infections

Since the pathogens are mainly absorbed by spoiled food, you should not consume raw meat, especially in the warm season, and pay attention to the hygiene of the food preparation.

In rice countries with poor drinking water quality, it is advisable to prefer bottled water from the trade and to avoid drinking tap water.

Also, general hygiene measures such as frequent hand washing - especially when dealing with animals - help to prevent Campylobacter infection.

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