Campylobacter enteritis

Alternative names
Food poisoning - campylobacter enteritis; Infectious diarrhea - campylobacter enteritis; Bacterial diarrhea

Campylobacter enteritis is an infection in the small intestine caused by Campylobacter jejuni, a type of bacteria.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Campylobacter enteritis is a common cause of intestinal infection. This bacteria also causes of one of the many types of traveler’s diarrhea.

The infection is usually acquired by eating or drinking contaminated food or water, often raw poultry, fresh produce, or unpasteurized milk. It can also be acquired by close contact with infected people or animals. There is an incubation period of 2 to 4 days before symptoms occur. Symptoms generally last one week.

Risk factors include recent family infection with C. jejuni, recent consumption of improperly prepared food, or recent travel in an area of poor hygiene or sanitation.


  • Cramping abdominal pain  
  • Watery diarrhea, sometimes bloody  
  • Fever

Signs and tests

Positive stool culture for Campylobacter jejuni


The infection typically resolves on its own and is not usually treated with antibiotics. Severe symptoms may respond to treatment with antibiotics such as ciprofloxacin and azithromycin.

Self-care measures to avoid dehydration include drinking electrolyte solutions to replace the fluids lost by diarrhea. People with diarrhea, especially children, who are unable to take fluids orally because of nausea may need medical attention and intravenous fluids.

People taking diuretics need to be cautious with diarrhea and may need to stop taking the diuretic during the acute episode, as directed by the health care provider.

Expectations (prognosis)

Most people recover in five to eight days.


Immunosuppressed people with this condition are more susceptible to sepsis, endocarditis, meningitis, and thrombophlebitis from the spread of the bacteria into their bloodstream.

Some patients will get a reactive arthritis called Reiter’s syndrome after a campylobacter enteritis infection.

About 1 in 1,000 patients with campylobacter enteritis develop a nerve problem that results in paralysis, called Guillain-Barre syndrome. Paralysis associated with Guillain-Barre syndrome is usually temporary.

Calling your health care provider
Call for an appointment with your health care provider if diarrhea recurs or persists for more than a week, or if blood in the stool is noted.

Avoid improperly prepared foods and practice sanitary food preparation. For more information please see the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s campylobacter enteritis information.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 4, 2012
by Janet G. Derge, M.D.

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