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Salmonella, Campylobacter Linked to IBD Risk

Jun 2, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP It's well-known that a bout of food poisoning can have long-term health consequences.  Now, a new study has shown that people who have suffered from Salmonella or campylobacter infections are three times more likely to develop Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD).  

More than 600,000 Americans have some kind of  IBD every year.  IBD encompasses a group of disorders, including ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease,  that cause the intestines to become inflamed.  IBD can cause abdominal cramps and pain, diarrhea, weight loss and bleeding from the intestines.  According to WebMD, genetics, environment, diet, abnormal blood vessels, infections, immune-system overreaction, and psychological factors all have been cited as possible causes of IBD.

One factor in the development of IBD could be food borne illness.  Recently, researchers at Aalborg Hospital in Denmark used that country's health records to see what role Salmonella or campylobacter infections play in the development of the disorder.  Salmonella and campylobacter are among the most common pathogens associated with food poisoning.  Both cause diarrhea, fever, and cramps, and can be especially dangerous in the elderly, people with weakened immune systems and pregnant women.

According to WebMD, the researchers in Denmark identified more than 13,149 treated for either illness, and compared their health records to those of people who had not been sick. According to their findings, people who suffered from either Salmonella or campylobacter  had 1.2% risk of getting IBD over the next 15 years. Those who never had either infection had only a 0.5% risk of IBD.

So it seems IBD can be listed as a possible long-term consequence of Salmonella or campylobacter infections.  Unfortunately, it is not the only one.  Victims of both infections are at risk of developing a form of reactive arthritis called Reiter’s Syndrome.  Reiter’s Syndrome typically affects large weight-bearing joints such as the knees and the lower back.   Campylobacter infections are also associated with the development of Guillain-Barré Syndrome.  This potentially-paralyzing illness can leave victims with mild to severe neurological damage.

Other food borne illnesses can also have long-term consequences. E. coli victims sometimes require kidney transplants. They may also have scarred intestines that cause lasting digestive difficulty. Even E. coli  patients who supposedly recovered can experience long-term health problems later on, as it is estimated that  10 percent of E. coli sufferers develop a life-threatening complication called hemolytic uremic syndrome, or HUS, where their kidneys and other organs fail.

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