Epidemiology and Infection

Original Papers

Gastroenteritis/Food poisoning

Campylobacter seroconversion rates in selected countries in the European Union

P. F. M. TEUNISa1a2 c1, G. FALKENHORSTa3, C. W. ANGa4, M. A. STRIDa3, H. DE VALKa5, M. SADKOWSKA-TODYSa6, L. ZOTAa7, M. KUUSIa8, M. C. ROTAa9, J. B. SIMONSENa3, K. MØLBAKa3, Y. T. H. P. VAN DUYNHOVENa1 and W. VAN PELTa1

a1 Centre for Infectious Disease Control, RIVM, Bilthoven, The Netherlands

a2 Hubert Department of Global Health, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, Atlanta, GA, USA

a3 Statens Serum Institut, Copenhagen, Denmark

a4 Department of Medical Microbiology and Infection Control, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

a5 Institut de Veille Sanitaire, Saint-Maurice cedex, France

a6 Narodowy Instytut Zdrowia Publicznego, Państwowy Zakład Higieny, Warszawa, Poland

a7 Centre for Communicable Diseases Prevention and Control, Bucharest, Romania

a8 Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology, National Public Health Institute, Helsinki, Finland

a9 Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Rome, Italy

SUMMARY

As a major foodborne pathogen, Campylobacter is frequently isolated from food sources of animal origin. In contrast, human Campylobacter illness is relatively rare, but has a considerable health burden due to acute enteric illness as well as severe sequelae. To study silent transmission, serum antibodies can be used as biomarkers to estimate seroconversion rates, as a proxy for infection pressure. This novel approach to serology shows that infections are much more common than disease, possibly because most infections remain asymptomatic. This study used antibody titres measured in serum samples collected from healthy subjects selected randomly in the general population from several countries in the European Union (EU). Estimates of seroconversion rates to Campylobacter were calculated for seven countries: Romania, Poland, Italy, France, Finland, Denmark and The Netherlands. Results indicate high infection pressures in all these countries, slightly increasing in Eastern EU countries. Of these countries, the differences in rates of notified illnesses are much greater, with low numbers in France and Poland, possibly indicating lower probability of detection due to differences in the notification systems, but in the latter case it cannot be excluded that more frequent exposure confers better protection due to acquired immunity.

(Received June 01 2012)

(Revised September 07 2012)

(Accepted November 12 2012)

(Online publication December 11 2012)

Key words

  • Campylobacter ;
  • epidemiology;
  • incidence;
  • serology;
  • statistics

Correspondence

c1 Author for correspondence: P. F. M. Teunis, Ph.D., National Institute of Public Health and the Environment, Centre for Infectious Disease Control, Anthonie van Leeuwenhoeklaan 9, 3721MA Bilthoven, The Netherlands. (Email: peter.teunis@rivm.nl)

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