Tokyo Food Safety Information Center » Good things to know » The microorganisms which cause food poisoning » Campylobacter jejuni/coli
Formerly, this bacteria was only known to cause miscarriage in cattle and sheep. Although rarely detected in the blood of human beings, it was virtually ignored.
Then, in 1973, this bacteria was first isolated from the stool of a diarrheic patient by Butzler in Belgium, which revealed its bacterial cause of enteritis. This was followed by Skirrow et al. isolating it again from the stool of another diarrheic patient in 1977 in the UK, identifying its seriousness. This bacteria then became world famous after a mass infection of 2,000 people via transmission through the water system in the US.
Meanwhile, Ito et al. first detected this bacteria in Japan from a mass outbreak in a nursery in 1979. Since this time, this bacteria has been positioned as a potential source of food poisoning in Japan as well.
The Campylobacter genus of bacteria is found in the digestive tracts of animals such as livestock, farmed poultry, pets, and wild animals and birds. Campylobacter jejuni has a high carriage rate among birds and cows, while Campylobacter coli has a high carriage rate among pigs.
As carriage rates are high among livestock and farmed poultry, this bacteria is frequently detected in commercially available meat due to contamination during processing at slaughterhouses, meat processing plants, and meat distributors.
As this is a gram-negative spiral bacteria, it does not reproduce aerobically nor virtually at all anaerobically, multiplying well under minutely aerobic conditions when oxygen is around 5 to 15%.
Note that the number of bacteria required for an outbreak of food poisoning is around just 100.
Which foods can cause Campylobacter jejuni/coli infection?
The following foods can be sources of food poisoning via eating uncooked meat, insufficient heating, secondary contamination from meat, and contamination from animal (and bird) feces.
Meat (particularly chicken), water, salads, and etc.
What are the symptoms of Campylobacter jejuni/coli infection?
Campylobacter jejuni/coli is characterized by a long incubation period of 2 to 7 days (with an average of between 2 and 3 days).
Primary symptoms are stomach pain, diarrhea, and fever. Campylobacter jejuni/coli commonly presents advance symptoms including fever, fatigue, headache, and muscle pain, followed by nausea and stomach pain. Diarrhea may occur 10 or more times per day. In most cases fever is around 37 to 38° C.
What are the key points to preventing Campylobacter jejuni/coli infection?
- Campylobacter jejuni/coli is weak to heat and dryness. Accordingly, thoroughly wash, sterilize with boiling water, and dry cooking implements after use.
- Avoid eating insufficiently cooked meat and organs as well as raw meat.
- In order to prevent secondary contamination from meat to salads and other foods, take care concerning the following points.
(1) Use separate counters for handling raw meat and for placing prepared foods.
(2) Wash hands thoroughly after handling raw meat.
(3) Use disposable gloves when arranging food.
(4) To prevent mutual contamination, place raw meat in dedicated containers with covers or cover them with plastic wrap.
- Do not drink unsterilized water and tank, well, or pond water contaminated by wild animal feces. Always sterilize water using chlorine or by boiling.
- Do not drink unpasteurized milk.
- Be careful of infection from pets such as dog and cats to infants.
- Keep the area around building and apartment water tanks clean and take sufficient hygiene management measures to ensure the feces of birds and other wild animals do not get inside.