Campylobacter: Campy

Campylobacter is 1 of 4 key global causes of diarrheal diseases, the most common bacterial cause of gastroenteritis in the world, and the most common cause of diarrheal disease illness in the United States. Campy causes an estimated 1.5 million infections every year in the US and is thought to be increasing globally in the last 10-15 years.

The Pathogen

Campylobacter are Gram-negative, non-spore forming bacteria that exisit as either curved or spiral shaped rods depending on the species. Campy can infect both humans and animals, being found in humans, and wild or domesticated animals such as cattle, birds, reptiles, shellfish, and dogs. Campy takes advantage of it's flagellum (it can have as many as 2) to travel throughout the host, moving towards the environments most favorable. Campy also produces a toxin that kills host cells, leading to blood in the host's diarrhea, but it also thought to supress the host's immune system.



The awareness of Campylobacter infections has been evolving for more than a century. In 1886, the first organisms resembling campylobacters were observed in stool samples of children with diarrhea, and were first isolated from stool in 1972. Symptoms of Campylobacter infection include: diarrhea (often bloody), fever, and stomach cramps. Usually symptoms start 2-5 days after infection and last about 1 week. In people with weakened immune systems, the infection can spread to the bloodstream and cause a life-threatening infection.

Campy Antibiotic Resistance

Of the 1.5 million infections, 29% have decreased susceptibility to fluoroquinolones (e.g., ciprofloxacin) or macrolides (e.g., azithromycin), the antibiotics used to treat severe Campylobacter infections. In particular, the percentage of Campylobacter with decreased susceptibility to ciprofloxacin has almost doubled in last 20 years, limiting treatment options for patients.