Campylobacter jejuni

Campylobacter jejuni is a bacterium that has a requirement for reduced levels of oxygen. It is relatively fragile, and sensitive to environmental stresses (e.g., 21% oxygen, drying, heating, disinfectants, acidic conditions. C. jejuni is the leading cause of bacterial diarrheal illness in the United States. It is often isolated from healthy cattle, chickens, birds and even flies and sometimes present in non-chlorinated water sources such as streams and ponds

C. jejuni infection causes diarrhea, which may be watery or sticky and can contain blood (usually occult) and fecal leukocyte (white cells). Other symptoms are fever, abdominal pain, nausea, headache and muscle pain. Sickness occurs 2-5 days after eating contaminated food or water. Illness generally lasts 7-10 days, but relapses happen (about 25% of cases). Most infections are self-limiting and are not treated with antibiotics but treatment with erythromycin does reduce the length of time that infected individuals shed the bacteria in their faeces.


C. jejuni frequently contaminates raw chicken( 20 to 100% of retail chickens are contaminated.) Raw milk is also a source of infections. The bacteria are often carried by healthy cattle and by flies on farms. Non-chlorinated water may also be a source of infections. Properly cooking chicken, pasteurising milk, and chlorinating drinking water will kill the bacteria.

Complications are relatively rare, but infections have been associated with reactive arthritis, hemolytic uremic syndrome, and following septicemia, infections of nearly any organ. The estimated fatality rate is one death per 1,000 cases and usually occurs in cancer patients or in the otherwise debilitated. Children under 5 years and young adults (15-29) are more frequently afflicted than other age groups

Rare complications include meningitis, recurrent colitis, acute cholecystitis and Guillain-Barre syndrome.

Isolation of C. jejuni from food is difficult because the bacteria are usually present in very low numbers.



Campylobacter in New Zealand MMWR 40(7):1991 Feb 22 .