Researchers at Bristol University recently presented new findings regarding Campylobacter contamination in poultry populations.  Professor Tom Humphrey from the University’s Department of Clinical Veterinary Science, led a new study showing that Campylobacter levels increase in the gut of chickens and other farm animals when they are transported. According to a Bristol University press release:

Research in many countries has shown that after transport, levels of bacteria like Campylobacter are higher in the gut of food animals than on the farm. Work at Bristol has demonstrated that this may be associated with the release of the stress hormone noradrenalin. This hormone makes Campylobacter grow more quickly, become highly motile and invasive, leading to an increase in its ability to cause disease – its virulence.

A further finding in the studies at Bristol is that Campylobacter can interact with other organisms in the gut of food animals. When this happens it can become even more infective. The results of this study provide vital information to enable the control of infection in the production environment, making chicken safer and decreasing cases of food poisoning.

Infection caused by Campylobacter bacteria is called campylobacteriosis and is usually caused by consuming unpasteurized milk, raw or undercooked meat or poultry, or other contaminated foods and water, and contact with feces from infected animals.

Symptoms of Campylobacter infection, which usually occur within 2 to 10 days after the bacteria are ingested, include fever, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea (often bloody). In some cases, physicians prescribe antibiotics when diarrhea is severe. The illness can last about a week.

Complications can include meningitis, urinary tract infections, and possibly reactive arthritis (rare and almost always short-term), and rarely, Guillain-Barre syndrome, an unusual type of paralysis. While most people who contract campylobacteriosis recover completely within 2 to 5 days, some Campylobacter infections can be fatal, resulting in an estimated 124 deaths each year.