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Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Campylobacter, the bacterium that causes most foodborne outbreaks in Spain

Bacteria seen through the microscope. , Jesper Hilding Clausen

There were 11,244 cases of campylobacteriosis in 2021, almost double the 6,891 cases reported in 2020

Campylobacter is the bacterium that causes most gastrointestinal infections in humans. According to the latest report on zoonotic diseases (infections from animals to humans) published by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), Campylobacter was the most common cause of infection in the EU accounting for 62% of the cases registered in 2021. and the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

In Spain, there were 11,244 cases of campylobacteriosis in 2021, almost double the 6,891 cases recorded in 2020. The incidence of this bacterium has a marked seasonal pattern, with the highest figures being found in summer, with a rebound in January. The most frequently implicated food as confirmed by the Consumers’ and Users’ Organization (OCU) is poultry meat (turkey and chicken).

Tips to Keep Salmonella Poisoning Away During Summer

According to the World Health Organization, Campylobacter is one of the four leading global causes of diarrheal disease and is considered the most common bacterial cause of gastroenteritis in the world. Campylobacter infections are usually mild but can be fatal in very young children, the elderly, and immunocompromised individuals. The main route of transmission is through food, through undercooked meat and meat products, as well as unboiled or contaminated milk. Contaminated water or ice is also a source of infection. Some cases occur after exposure to contaminated water during recreational activities. Various species of Campylobacter are killed by heat (above 65 degrees) and thorough cooking of food.


Salmonella is the bacterium that causes the second most zoonoses in the European Union, first in terms of the number of outbreaks, and its incidence has been stable since 2014. There was a slight increase in registered cases in 2021 compared to 2020, the lowest since the index began monitoring in 2007.

During 2021, 3,913 cases of salmonellosis were registered in Spain, representing an increase compared to the previous year (in which 3,526 were registered). These figures are higher than in 2020, following the general trend observed in this study, but they are well below the figures obtained before the pandemic (for example, in 2017, there were more than 9,400 cases).

Furthermore, in the case of salmonella, there is a seasonal phenomenon, which is very high in summer. Eggs and egg-based products are the foods most commonly associated with transmission of this bacterium.

Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC)

Some strains of Escherichia coli produce toxins, such as Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC), which can cause serious disorders. In Europe, 6,084 cases were reported in 2021, although this figure is probably lower than the actual number of cases, as some countries, including Spain, do not maintain a systematic registry of the disease. Indeed, every year the number of information related to this bacteria is increasing.

STEC is spread to people mainly through the consumption of contaminated water or food and through direct contact with animals or other people or infected people.

People can act as a reservoir of infection in asymptomatic cases, but ruminants are thought to be the main reservoir of STEC, and cattle are the major contributor to disease in people.

Precisely beef and its derivatives, milk and dairy products, and fruits and vegetables are the food groups most associated with the transmission of this bacterium.


Listeria ranks fifth in terms of incidence in humans, and is one of the most concerning zoonotic diseases. Its transmission is often associated with ready-to-eat food.

Although the number of listeriosis cases in Europe as a whole is higher than in the previous year (2,183 confirmed cases), the trend has been statistically stable since 2017. The most affected population group was people over the age of 64, especially over 84.

The incidence in Spain follows a trend seen in Europe: an increase in listeriosis cases was detected in 2021 compared to the previous year (224 compared to 191), but less than the figures recorded before the pandemic.

The report also includes data on other agents Mycobacterium bovis/caprae, Brucella, Trichinella, Echinococcus, Toxoplasma gondii, rabies, Q fever, West Nile virus infection and tularemia, which can be found in the full document available on the EFSA website.

World Nation News Desk
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