What is Campylobacter?
Campylobacter is a bacterial species of Gram-negative, flagellated, microaerobic rod bacteria with a spiral or s-shaped shape. Currently, more than 30 species are known, of which Campylobacter jejuni and Campylobacter coli are the most important human pathogenic species. The bacteria are among the most common pathogens causing gastrointestinal infections worldwide. In European countries, there is a link between warm seasons and the increased incidence of Campylobacter-related diseases. Children under the age of five and adults between the ages of 20 and 29 are most frequently infected with the pathogens. Wild animals, farm animals and pets are also often colonised with the bacteria and used as a reservoir without showing symptoms of disease.
How is Campylobacter transmitted?
Campylobacter infections are mainly transmitted through the consumption of contaminated food and through faeces. Poultry meat – especially chicken meat – is the most common source of infection in humans, along with unpasteurised milk or other raw, insufficiently heated meat. Other sources of infection include contaminated drinking water, contact with pets (for example, dogs), or bathing in contaminated surface waters. The incubation period is usually two to five days; occasionally, it varies between one and ten days.
Despite the low disease-causing dose of about 500 germs, transmission from person to person is not a primary source of infection in adults. Infants, on the other hand, who do not yet have a pronounced immune system, can infect each other with Campylobacter.
Patients remain infectious as long as the pathogens can be detected in the stool. As a rule, the bacteria are excreted from the body within two to four weeks.
What are symptoms of the disease?
The infectious disease Campylobacteriose, which Campylobacter triggers in the human intestine, leads to feverish intestinal inflammations. Between 12 to 24 hours before the onset of enteric symptoms, early symptoms include headache, fever, fatigue, abdominal, muscle and joint pain. Diarrhoea is often characterised by mushy to watery stools, which can occasionally be bloody. The course of the disease can become chronic in immunocompromised patients. In healthy people, the symptoms subside after one week. Symptomatic therapy with electrolyte and volume substitution is therefore usually sufficient. In very rare cases, secondary diseases occur, such as arthritis or Guillain-Barré syndrome, an inflammatory change in the peripheral nervous system that can lead to paralysis. In case of prolonged symptoms, antimicrobial therapy with antibiotics such as azithromycin or ciprofloxacin (alternative) should be initiated.
Significance for infections in hospitals and in the outpatient sector
The basic hygiene measures defined by the Robert-Koch-Institute in Germany, including hand disinfection, wearing gloves and protective gowns, as well as surface disinfection and hygienic preparation of medical devices, are generally sufficient to prevent transmission of the pathogens. In the case of very severe diarrhoea, experts also recommend that the patient be accommodated in an isolation room. Acute infectious Campylobacter gastroenteritis must be reported. The health authority must be notified within 24 hours of a doctor’s diagnosis. Suspicion of infectious gastroenteritis must also be reported if the person concerned has contact with food (for example, restaurants, kitchens) or if more than two reports of the disease occur in which an epidemic connection is probable.
Survival time of pathogens on inanimate surfaces
Up to 6 days
Disinfectant effectiveness for prevention
The required spectrum of action against Campylobacter is: bactericidal