What Is Campylobacter

While you may not have heard of it, Campylobacter is one of the top five pathogens causing foodborne associated illness, hospitalizations, and deaths in the United States. (CDC) Campylobacter is a type or genus of bacteria. Our lab is interested in two species: Campylobacter coli and Campylobacter jejuni (also written C. coli and C. jejuni). The illness that Campylobacter causes, campylobacteriosis, is often associated with raw (unpasteurized) milk, poultry products, or contaminated water. (foodsafety.gov) Consuming raw milk, unclean water, or undercooked poultry are all ways in which you can get campylobacteriosis. However, cross-contamination while handling raw poultry is another way. It’s important to wash your hands and any utensils after they have touched raw meat or poultry. And, it’s actually best to skip rinsing your poultry before cooking it. This is because any splashes can spread any harmful germs around your sink and counter tops. You can check out our friends at Barf Blog to read more about that.


When someone gets sick with campylobacteriosis they usually start to feel sick 2-5 days after getting infected which can really make it difficult to nail down how you caught it. People are generally sick for 2-10 days and can experience painful cramping, diarrhea, fever, and vomiting. Symptoms usually subside on their own, but in severe cases antibiotics, like erythromycin, may be prescribed. It’s rare, but sometimes Campylobacter infection can lead to autoimmune diseases like reactive arthritis. Approximately one in every 1,000 C. jejuni infections will result in Guillaine Barre Syndrome (GBS)- a type of reversible paralysis. Recently, Campylobacter has come to the forefront in the discussions concerning antibiotic resistance. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has classified it as being a serious threat requiring “prompt and sustained action to ensure the problem does not grow.”  (CDC 2013 antibiotic threats report)