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Pathology of Campylobacter Infection

Dr Sampurna Roy MD




With reliable isolation and routine screening, Campylobacter species have emerged as the leading cause of acute bacterial enteritis.

These are flagellated, comma-shaped, gram-negative bacteria.

Campylobacter Enteritis:

Campylobacter enteritis is acquired by eating improperly cleaned and cooked food, usually poultry, contaminated by Campylobacter jejuni, an organism that colonizes poultry.

In one study, Campylobacter jejuni was cultured from the body cavities of more than half of fresh and frozen chickens and turkeys in 10 major cities around the world.

Campylobacter jejuni, like Salmonella, are enteroinvasive and produce a spectrum of disease ranging from subclinical infection to severe dysentery.

Illness appears 2 to 5 days after ingestion of contaminated food and lasts about 5 days.

Symptoms include abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, fever, and myalgia.

Stools are malodorous and frequently bloody.

Inflammation involves the gastrointestinal tract from jejunum to anus.

Most patients have colonic crypt abscesses and ulcers resembling those in ulcerative colitis.

Microscopically, the small bowel is edematous and hyperemic and is infiltrated with neutrophils, lymphocytes, and plasma cells.

Comma-shaped organisms are seen in the intestinal mucosa and lamina propria.

The disease is generally benign and self-limited.

Other pathological lesions caused by Campylobacter jejuni :

Myocarditis can be a rare but severe complication of infectious disease and should be considered as a diagnosis in patients presenting with chest pain and elevated cardiac enzymes in the absence of underlying coronary disease.

It can lead to cardiomyopathy and congestive heart failure.

There are only a few reported cases of myocarditis associated with Campylobacter infection.

Infection with Campylobacter jejuni often precedes the Guillain-Barre syndrome and is associated with axonal degeneration, slow recovery, and severe residual disability.

Campylobacter fetus infection:

Another species, Campylobacter fetus, is an infrequent but clinically important opportunistic pathogen that causes localized infection as well as sepsis.

The organism is an economically important cause of septic abortion and infertility in sheep and cattle.

It has been isolated from vaginal secretions of cows, from the prepuce and ejaculate of bulls, and from the placenta and tissues of abortuses.

Cases of spontaneous abortion and infertility in humans may thus be caused by Campylobacter fetus, especially in populations exposed to livestock.


Further reading:

The clinical importance of emerging Campylobacter species.

Prevalence of campylobacter and salmonella in raw chicken on retail sale in the republic of ireland.

Culture-based indicators of fecal contamination and molecular microbial indicators rarely correlate with Campylobacter spp. in recreational waters.

Investigating vomiting and/or bloody diarrhoea in Campylobacter jejuni infection.

Guillain-Barre syndrome: association with Campylobacter jejuni and Mycoplasma pneumoniae infections in India.

Campylobacter jejuni induces maturation and cytokine production in human dendritic cells.

Human epithelial-specific response to pathogenic Campylobacter jejuni.



Dr Sampurna Roy  MD

Consultant  Histopathologist (Kolkata - India)






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