Campylobacter jejuni infections are the main cause of foodborne gastroenteritis in the United States and other developed countries. Generally, C. jejuni infections are self-limiting and treatment is not necessary; however, infections caused by this organism can lead to potentially dangerous long-term consequences for some individuals. Bacteremia, Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS; an acute flaccid paralytic disease), and reactive arthritis (ReA) are the most serious of the long-term consequences of C. jejuni infections. During pregnancy, foodborne infections may be hazardous to both the woman and the fetus. C. jejuni–induced bacteremia during pregnancy may lead to intrauterine infection of the fetus, abortion, stillbirth, or early neonatal death. Infection of a newborn by the mother during the birth process or shortly after birth may lead to neonatal enteritis, bacteremia, and/or meningitis. C. jejuni enteritis is the inducing antecedent infection in approximately 30% of cases of GBS. Thus, pregnant women infected with C. jejuni may contract GBS. GBS during pregnancy does not affect fetal or infant development and does not increase spontaneous abortion or fetal death; however, it may induce spontaneous delivery during the third trimester in severe cases. Reactive arthritis occurs in approximately 2% of C. jejuni enteritis cases and leads to the impaired movement of various joints. Pregnant women with C. jejuni–induced reactive arthritis can be expected to deliver a normal infant. A pregnant patient with GBS or ReA may be unable to care for a newborn infant because of the physical impairment induced by these diseases. Since C. jejuni infections put both fetuses and pregnant women at risk, pregnant women must take special care in food handling and preparation to prevent such infections.
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