Campylobacter are gram-negative motile rods with a poor flagellum. They require microaerobic conditions to survive. Campylobacter jejuni is most often associated with the disease in cats, dogs, guinea pigs and other domesticated species, as well as humans.
The organism can survive in the environment for 3 days or more.
Humans contract the disease by one of the following routes :
Human infection can be contracted from :
Exposure to campylobacter is higher in animals fed raw foods (eg the BARF diet)
Human workers most at risk include :
Dog - Many infected dogs show no signs. Stress, the presence of another disease or other factors (e.g. pregnancy) may increase susceptibility to develop the disease. Diarrhoea (watery to bloody with mucus and sometimes bile-stained) lasting 5-15 days is usually how the disease presents, and it is most common in dogs less than 6 months old. Occasionally chronic diarrhoea can result - lasting for months, and sometimes there is an increased body temperature and an increased white cell (leucocyte ) count.
Cat -Many infected cats show no signs. Usually affected cats are less than 6 months old. Diarrhoea (sometimes bloody) is the sign seen most often, but in most of the cases reported in the literature other infectious agents were found to be present as well e.g. toxoplasma, giardia.
Humans - often severe with abdominal discomfort, diarrhoea, vomiting, fever. There have been many reported instances of transmission of C.jejuni from pets to humans however the main source of infection for humans is raw or undercooked meat (especially chicken). There is also evidence that C.upsalensis may be a zoonosis as well (dogs and cats).
Examination of fresh faecal smears under dark-field or phase-contrast microscopy.
Culture of the organism from rectal swabs or faecal samples. Special culture medium is needed (campylobacter blood agar plates ) and they have to incubated in a reduced oxygen environment.
Ultrasound will help diagnose gall bladder inflammation (cholecystitis).
Erythromycin is the drug of choice to treat camylobacter infections in humans, dogs and cats but it can cause vomiting as a side-effect.
Despite a reported clinical improvement chloramphenicol may not eliminate Campylobacter infection and may induce a carrier state in treated animals.
Erythromycin was not effective in one outbreak in ferrets.
The prognosis is good for infected individuals even though they may remain carriers
Long term problems
The carrier state presents problems for other animals that may come into contact with an infected individual.
Updated October 2013