About Campylobacter

From the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of Campylobacter and other foodborne illness outbreaks.

Chapter 6

Complications of Campylobacter infection

Campylobacter infection can result in several complications, including Guillain Barre Syndrome, a form of paralysis.

For those persons who suffer a Campylobacter infection that does not resolve on its own, the complications (or sequelae) can be many. [5]

Complications can include septicemia (bacterial pathogens in the blood, also known as bacteremia), meningitis, inflammation of the gall bladder (cholecystitis), urinary tract infections, and appendicitis. [1, 6, 28].

Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS)

A sizeable percentage of persons who suffer Campylobacter infections develop Guillain-Barre Syndrome, which causes neuromuscular paralysis. [1, 8, 28] Over time, the paralysis is to some extent typically reversible; nonetheless, approximately 20% of patients with GBS are left disabled, and approximately 5% die. [1, 28]

An estimated one case of GBS occurs for every 1,000 Campylobacter infections. [1] Along these same lines, researchers estimate that between 20% and 40% of all GBS cases are caused by Campylobacter infections. [28] Indeed, up to 40% of GBS patients have evidence of recent Campylobacter infection. [1, 23] “Assuming that 20 to 40 percent of all patients with GBS have prior Campylobacter infections, there are an estimated 526 to 3, 830 new patients diagnosed with Campylobacter-associated GBS each year in the United States.” [8]

GBS occurs when an infected person’s immune system makes antibodies against components of Campylobacter, and these antibodies attack components of the body’s nerve cells because they are chemically similar to bacterial components. [1, 2, 8] Miller Fisher Syndrome is another, related neurological syndrome that can follow Campylobacteriosis, and is also caused by a triggered immune-response. [2] Overall, there is no one factor that appears to cause a greater percentage of GBS cases other than Campylobacter infections. [8]

Each year, there are an estimated 2,628 to 9,575 people who develop GBS in the United States. [8] The annual cost of Campylobacter-associated GBS in the United States is estimated to be between $0.2 to $1.8 billion (in 1995 dollars). [8]

Reactive Arthritis

Another chronic condition that may be associated with Campylobacter infection is a condition formerly known as Reiter’s syndrome, a form of reactive arthritis. [1, 6, 28] “Multiple joints can be affected, particularly the knee joint. Pain and incapacitation can last for months or become chronic.” [1] Reactive Arthritis is a complication that is strongly associated with a particular genetic make-up—that is, persons who have the human lymphocyte antigen B27 (HLA-B27) are most susceptible. [1, 5] Most often, the symptoms of reactive arthritis can occur up to several weeks after infections. [5]

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