Health: Chicken meat is very often contaminated with Campylobacter bacteria

RKI warns of Campylobacter infections from chicken meat

The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) warns of an increasing number of Campylobacter infections in Germany, with chicken meat being one of the main sources of infection. "With more than 70,000 reported diseases in 2016 and similarly high numbers in previous years, Campylobacter enteritis has become the most common bacterial reportable disease in Germany," the RKI said.

If Campylobacter bacteria are detected in stool samples, this must be reported in accordance with the Infection Protection Act (IfSG). Of the 70,000 infections reported in Germany, children under the age of five and young adults between the ages of 20 and 29 were most frequently affected, reports the RKI. Most Campylobacter infections were caused by eating animal food, especially poultry meat. According to the RKI, this is particularly frequently contaminated with Campylobacter.

Symptoms of Campylobacter infection

Campylobacter infections can cause intestinal inflammation, which is typically characterized by diarrhea, severe abdominal pain and fever. RKI also names nausea and vomiting, blood in the stool and additional complaints such as headache and body aches, chills or fatigue. According to the experts, the complaints last an average of six days.

RKI lists possible secondary diseases as reactive arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome and neurological complications such as Guillain-Barré syndrome.

Pathogen can be transmitted between humans and animals

"Campylobacter enteritis belongs to the so-called zoonoses, so the pathogens can be transmitted between animals and humans," reports the RKI. Poultry and cattle are the most important animal reservoirs for the pathogens.

According to the RKI, various so-called source attribution studies, in which the relative importance of different animal sources for Campylobacter infections in humans were examined, showed that 50 to 90% of human infections can be traced back to the chicken source. “The most frequent triggers of the infections are the bacterial species Campylobacter jejuni (90%) and Campylobacter coli (7%).

Chicken and eating out of the home are a risk

"In multivariable logistic regression analyzes, the consumption of chicken meat and food outside the home were the most important risk factors for a Campylobacter infection," said the RKI. The risk factors associated with kitchen hygiene include the preparation of packaged poultry meat in the home and the simultaneous preparation of raw meat and foods that are not heated before being consumed.

Contact with poultry is another risk factor and, last but not least, the intake of gastric acid inhibitors in the four weeks before the onset of the disease "was statistically significantly associated with a Campylobacter infection", reports the RKI.

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