Epidemiology and Infection

Gastrointestinal infection and food poisoning

Source attribution of human campylobacteriosis using a meta-analysis of case-control studies of sporadic infections

A. R. DOMINGUESa1 c1, S. M. PIRESa1, T. HALASAa2 and T. HALDa1

a1 National Food Institute, Technical University of Denmark, Søborg, Denmark

a2 National Veterinary Institute, Technical University of Denmark, Copenhagen, Denmark


Campylobacter spp. is a widespread and important cause of human illness worldwide. Disease is frequently associated with foodborne transmission, but other routes of exposure, such as direct contact with live animals and person-to-person transmission, are also recognized. Identifying the most important sources of human disease is essential for prioritizing food safety interventions and setting public health goals. Numerous case-control studies of sporadic infections of campylobacteriosis have been published. These studies investigated a variety of potential risk factors for disease, often using different methodologies and settings. Systematic reviews (SRs) consist of a formal process for literature review focused on a specific research question, and include the identification of relevant literature, quality assessment of relevant studies, summarization or statistical analysis of data, and conclusions. With the objective of identifying the most important risk factors for human sporadic campylobacteriosis, we performed a SR of case-control studies of human sporadic cases and a meta-analysis of the obtained results. A combined SR focusing on Salmonella and Campylobacter studies was performed and the results analysed separately. From 1295 identified references, 131 passed the relevance screening, 73 passed the quality assessment stage, and data was extracted from 72 studies. Of these, 38 focused on campylobacteriosis. Information on exposures of cases and controls, and estimated odds ratios for investigated risk factors were collected and analysed. In the meta-analysis, heterogeneity between the studies and possible sources of bias were investigated, and pooled odds ratios for identified risk factors were estimated. Results suggest that travelling abroad, eating undercooked chicken, environmental sources, and direct contact with farm animals were significant risk factors for campylobacteriosis. Sub-analyses by geographical region, age group, and study period were performed, and differences were discussed.

(Accepted November 21 2011)

(Online publication January 03 2012)


c1 Author for correspondence: Miss A. R. Domingues, National Food Institute, Technical University of Denmark. Mørkhøj Bygade 19, DK-2860 Søborg, Denmark. (Email: arco@food.dtu.dk)