Campylobacter (C.) form together with Arcobacter and Sulfospirillum the family Campylobacteraceae within the order of Campylobacterales of the epsilon-proteobacteria. The genus Campylobacter is currently composed of 17 species and 6 subspecies are recognized. In addition to their microaerophilic metabolism the Campylobacter isolates are characterized by the inability to utilize carbohydrates as well as their low (guanine cytosine) content.
Campylobacter are delicate, Gram-negative, spiral wound rods (0.5-8 microns long and 0.2 to 0.5 microns wide), which may take coccoid or spheroid shape under oxygen exposure or caused by aging of the cultures. They are not spore-forming and usually have mono-or bipolar arranged flagella, resulting in the mobility of the microorganism. The growth temperature is a useful distinguishing criterioin. The species C. jejuni, C. coli, C. lari and C. upsaliensis are called thermophilic Campylobacter because of their optimum growth at 42 ° C.
Campylobacter species are ubiquitous and colonize the mucous membranes of the intestinal tract, the oral mucosa and the urogenital tract in animals and humans. Several species are pathogenic and cause diseases both in animals and in humans. 12 of the 17 Campylobacter species are associated with human diseases. Among these species, the thermophilic C. jejuni and C. coli have the highest impact on human health as they are the main cause of campylobacter enteritis (campylobacteriosis). Campylobacteriosis is a zoonotic disease which is mostly asymptomatic in birds, poultry and many mammals.
Campylobacteriosis in different animal species caused by the thermophilic species C. C. jejuni, C. coli, C. lari and C. upsaliensis are notifiable (amended ordinance on notifiable animal diseases 20 December 2005). The Notice of national reference laboratories for notifiable diseases and notifiable animal diseases, 5 December 2008, the location of FLI Jena has been the seat of the NRL for campylobacteriosis (Campylobacter) named (Bundesanzeiger No. 196, 4701-4703).