Campylobacter jejuni is a Gram negative bacteria and is commonly found in the feces of animals and in the gastrointestinal tract of many birds. It can be transmitted to humans as a result of consumption of contaminated drinking water or food or unpasteurized milk. Another common cause of transmission is incorrectly prepared or inadequately cooked poultry and meat products. Campylobacter jejuni is one of the leading causes of gastroenteritis and food poisoning in humans. It causes an infection called Campylobacteriosis. It is basically a food borne illness.
On consumption of contaminated food or drink, you will suffer from enteritis as the bacterium chiefly affects the gut and causes injury in the gut. It invades the epithelial cells of the jejunum, ileum and the colon. You may complain of severe abdominal pain, diarrhoea with or without blood in stools and fever. The symptoms of Campylobacter jejuni infection will last for 24 hours to about a week, in some cases the infection may last for more than a week also. You may suffer from a prodromal phase which usually lasts for 24 hours, during which you may develop fever, headache, body ache and myalgia. Following the prodromal phase you will develop diarrhoea- 8 to 10 stools per day with or without blood in stools, abdominal pains and cramps and high grade fever.
You are more prone to this infection, if you regularly travel to different countries. It is one of the commonest causes of a condition called Traveller’s diarrhoea. The infecting dose is 1000 to 10,000 bacteria but even 10 to 500 bacteria are sufficient to cause an infection. Campylobacter jejuni is very sensitive to hydrochloric acid and if you are on antacid treatment you may be at an added risk to suffer from this infection. The amounts of hydrochloric acid present in your stomach are greatly protective and kill nearly all the campylobacter that may enter your stomach.
Complications: After suffering from C. Jejuni infection you may develop an autoimmune complication which affects the nerves of the legs which causes an acute idiopathic demyelinating polyneuropathy also known as Guillian Barre syndrome. You may develop symptoms like altered sensations on the lower limbs, paralysis of the lower limbs, in advanced cases some patients may suffer from respiratory failure which usually proves fatal. Some may develop toxic megacolon, dehydration and sepsis. These complications are seen in children below the age of 1 year and in immunocompromised hosts. Few others develop a chronic form of the disease, and you may have symptoms like sub febrile temperatures, arthralgia, asthenia, endocarditis and few eye complications. These complications are seen if you have not taken proper treatment.
With a Campylobacter jejuni infection, you may suffer from other conditions like hemolytic uremic syndrome and thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura.
If you suffer from any of the symptoms of campylobacter infection it is best that you visit your doctor. He might advise you a stool culture, antibiotic sensitivity and gram staining to confirm the diagnosis.
Treatment: The infection is usually self limiting and you are advised to drink plenty of oral fluids and electrolyte replacement therapy. Depending on the severity of the infection you are suffering from, the doctor may put you on a course of antibiotics. In children Erythromycin is used commonly and adults do well with a course of tetracycline.
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