Campylobacter (camp-UH-low-back-ter) is a genus of bacteria that is among the most common causes of bacterial infections in humans worldwide.
Since 1992, food remains the most common vehicle for the spread of Campylobacter, and chicken is the most common food implicated. Commercially raised poultry is nearly always colonized with Campylobacter. Slaughterhouse procedures amplify contamination, and chicken and turkey in supermarkets, ready for consumers to take home, frequently is contaminated. Slaughter and processing provide opportunities for reducing Campylobacter counts on food-animal carcasses. Bacterial counts on carcasses can increase during slaughter and processing steps.
Most Campylobacter infections in humans are caused by the consumption of contaminated food or water. The infective dose—that is, the number of bacteria that must be ingested to cause illness—is relatively small. Ingestion of as few as 500 organisms, an amount that can be found in one drop of chicken juice, has been shown to cause human infection.
Campylobacter jejuni grows poorly on properly refrigerated foods but does survive refrigeration and will grow if contaminated foods are left out at room temperature. The bacterium is sensitive to heat and other common disinfection procedures; pasteurization of milk, adequate cooking of meat and poultry, and chlorination or ozonation of water will destroy this organism.