What are Campylobacter germs?

Along with salmonella , campylobacter bacteria are among   the most common causes of bacterial intestinal inflammation (enteritis). 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, in most cases the disease heals on its own, so that treatment with  antibiotics  is rarely necessary. Since the germs are mainly transmitted through spoiled food, Campylobacter infections occur more frequently in the summer months.

Transmission of Campylobacter germs and routes of infection

Campylobacter bacteria primarily affect wild and farm animals such as birds, cattle and pigs. They are then ingested by humans by  eating undercooked meat or raw milk  . Human-to-human transmission is rare, but transmission from infected pets or contaminated  drinking water  is possible.

After being absorbed through the gastrointestinal tract, the germs spread in the intestinal wall and form a toxin there that triggers the symptoms of the disease.

Symptoms of Campylobacter infection

Two to five days after the ingestion of the pathogen, non-specific symptoms such as headaches,  body aches  and fever appear. This is followed by the typical symptoms of campylobacter enteritis:

  • severe abdominal pain and cramps
  • mushy or watery, rarely bloody, diarrhea
  • painful urge to defecate
  • high fever (up to 40 degrees Celcius)
  • headache and body aches
  • Tiredness and general feeling of illness

These symptoms are particularly evident in the case of an infection with  Campylobacter jejuni,  the main representative of the Campylobacter genus.

On the other hand, the related bacterium  Campylobacter coli  can also cause the disease to progress without characteristic symptoms: In these cases, there is often no diarrhea, only abdominal pain and fever. 

course and therapy

In otherwise healthy people, the symptoms often go away on their own after seven to 14 days. Therefore, the therapy is limited to treating the symptoms with painkillers and antipyretics.

If the diarrhea is very severe,  the loss of fluids and minerals should be compensated for  : Therefore, make sure you drink around three liters per day; still mineral water, sweetened  tea  and meat or vegetable broth are suitable. In addition, special electrolyte solutions from the pharmacy can help to compensate for the mineral deficiency.

Therapy with antibiotics is only necessary in particularly severe cases and in older or weakened patients.

Possible complications of Campylobacter infection

In seltenen Fällen kann es zwei bis sechs Wochen nach einer überstandenen Campylobacter-Infektion als Spätfolge zu einer so genannten reaktiven Arthritis kommen. Dabei handelt es sich um eine Gelenkentzündung, deren Entstehung nicht eindeutig geklärt ist. Es wird jedoch vermutet, dass das Immunsystem Strukturen im Gelenk angreift, die den Bakterien in ihren Oberflächenmerkmalen ähneln.

Zudem kommen Campylobacter-Bakterien als Auslöser einer ebenfalls durch das Immunsystem bedingten Nervenentzündung (Guillain-Barré-Syndrom) in Betracht.

Campylobacter fetus, eine sehr seltene Untergruppe der Campylobacter-Keime, kann durch den Darm in das Blut gelangen und sich so im ganzen Körper ausbreiten. Dies führt besonders bei Neugeborenen und immungeschwächten Menschen zu schweren Krankheitsbildern wie einer Hirnhautentzündung (Meningitis), einer Entzündung der Herzinnenhaut (Endokarditis) oder einer Venenentzündung (Phlebitis).

Vorbeugung von Campylobacter-Infektionen

Da die Erreger hauptsächlich über verdorbene Nahrungsmittel aufgenommen werden, sollten Sie vor allem in der warmen Jahreszeit möglichst kein rohes Fleisch verzehren und auf Hygiene bei der Essenszubereitung achten.

In travel countries with poor drinking water quality, it is advisable to prefer bottled water from shops and avoid drinking tap water.

General hygiene measures such as frequent hand washing – especially when handling animals – also   help to prevent Campylobacter infection.


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