Campylobacter is a genus of bacteria that is among the most common causes of bacterial diarrheal illness in humans worldwide. The name means “curved rod,” derived from the Greek campylos (curved) and baktron (rod). While there are dozens of species, three represent the main sources of human infection: Campylobacter jejuni, Campylobacter coli, and Campylobacter lari. C. jejuni is the most implicated species. Campylobacter species represent one of the most common causes of bacterial diarrheal illness worldwide. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are about 1.3 million cases of Campylobacter infection each year in the United States alone. Campylobacter is, therefore, the most common cause of bacterial foodborne illness, ahead of Salmonella species.
Campylobacter infection is commonly associated with the consumption of raw (unpasteurized) milk, undercooked poultry, and contaminated water; however, most Campylobacter cases are sporadic and are never traced back to a specific food or beverage. Because of this, historically, very few foods have been recalled due to the presence of Campylobacter bacteria. Direct contact with infected animals, including pets, especially puppies and kittens, is also a well-documented means of disease-transmission.