What is the biggest cause of gastrointestinal infections?

Campylobacter is considered the most common bacterial cause of human gastroenteritis. It is one of the four major causes of diarrhea in the world, making it of great socioeconomic importance.

What is Campylobacter?

Campylobacter is a genus composed of zoonotic bacteria, with bacillary shape, which causes campylobacteriosis, a food poisoning. It is widely found in nature, being considered normal flora in several domestic and wild animals. The vast majority of species of the genus Campylobacter grows at a temperature of 37ºC, except for C. jejuni, C. coli and C. lari, which can grow at temperatures up to 42ºC. It is formed by one or more spiral flagella, which contributes to its pathogenicity increase.

Mechanism of virulence and infection

Campylobacter is an eukaryotic intracellular parasite. Colonization begins in the small intestinal cells, causing a decrease in its absorption capacity and subsequently it moves to the colon. The flagellum has a complex role in pathogenicity that includes, among others, protein secretion.

Recently, several virulence factors that may be involved in the pathogenicity of Campylobacter have been identified. Among the main ones are motility due to the flagellum, adherence abilitie and invasion of eukaryotic cells, lipopolysaccharide LPS with endotoxic activity and production of cytotoxins, such as CDTs that kills the infected cell.

What are the authorities doing about it?

The growing trend, which started in 2005, affects many countries, regardless of their level of development. The high incidence is found even in countries with a high development level, with chicken carcasses being the most important route of contamination. Thus, many national and international organizations, such as WHO and FDA, have identified the need for changes in regulations, through several studies carried out over the last decade.

This change is associated with microbiological criteria and resulted in ISO 10272: 2017 Microbiology of the food chain. Horizontal method for detection and enumeration of Campylobacter spp., formed by two parts: “Detection method” and “Colony-count technique”. The last part contains the techniques for sampling fresh chicken carcasses and meat. The sampling plan is intended to follow the same hygiene criteria approach established for Salmonella.

With the new regulations, a decrease in cases of campylobacteriosis is expected, contributing to a reduction in public health problems.