Fast Five Quiz: Common Food Poisoning Pathogens

Richard H. Sinert, DO


November 12, 2018

The use of antibiotics to treat Campylobacter infections is controversial, with studies showing that erythromycin rapidly eliminated Campylobacter organisms from the stool without affecting the duration of illness. Studies in children with C jejuni dysentery have shown benefit from early treatment with erythromycin. Antibiotics may be indicated if any of the following occur:

  • High fever

  • Bloody diarrhea

  • Excessive bowel movements (ie, > 8 stools per day)

  • Worsening symptoms

  • Failure of symptoms to improve

  • Persistence of symptoms for longer than 1 week

  • Pregnancy

  • HIV infection and other immunocompromised states

Campylobacter infections can occur in all age groups. Studies show a peak incidence in children younger than 1 year and in persons aged 15-29 years. The age-specific attack rate is highest in young children. In the United States, the highest incidence of Campylobacter infection in 2010 was in children younger than 5 years and was 24.4 cases per 100,000 population. However, the rate of fecal cultures positive for Campylobacter species is greatest in adults and older children.

In some Campylobacter gastroenteritis cases, acute abdominal pain is the only symptom, with pain typically in the right lower quadrant. Among the symptoms, abdominal pain is more likely to result from Campylobacter infection than from Salmonella or Shigella infections.

Campylobacter organisms multiply more slowly than other enteric bacteria, thus unusual techniques are used for isolation from fecal specimens. Results of stool cultures usually do not remain positive beyond 2 weeks.

For more on Campylobacter infections, read here.


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