Characteristics and Risk Factors of Post-Infection Irritable Bowel Syndrome After Campylobacter Enteritis

Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2021 Sep;19(9):1855-1863.e1. doi: 10.1016/j.cgh.2020.07.033. Epub 2020 Jul 23.


Background & aims: Campylobacter is the leading cause of bacterial gastroenteritis in the United States. We investigated the prevalence of postinfection irritable bowel syndrome (PI-IBS) in a cohort with culture-confirmed Campylobacter cases; risk factors for PI-IBS based on clinical factors; and shifts in IBS patterns postinfection in patients with pre-existing IBS.

Methods: The Minnesota Department of Health collects data on symptoms and exposures upon notification of Campylobacter cases. From 2011 through 2019, we sent surveys (the Rome III and IBS symptom severity surveys) to 3586 patients 6 to 9 months after Campylobacter infection. The prevalence of PI-IBS was estimated and risk factors were assessed using multivariable logistic regression.

Results: There were 1667 responders to the survey, 249 of whom had pre-existing IBS. Of the 1418 responders without pre-existing IBS, 301 (21%) subsequently developed IBS. Most of these individuals had IBS-mixed (54%), followed by IBS-diarrhea (38%), and IBS-constipation (6%). The mean IBS symptom severity score was 218 (indicating moderate severity). Female sex, younger age, bloody stools, abdominal cramps, and hospitalization during acute enteritis were associated with increased risk, whereas fever was protective for the development of PI-IBS. Antibiotic use and exposure patterns were similar between PI-IBS and control groups. Among patients with IBS-mixed or IBS-diarrhea before infection, 78% retained their subtypes after infection. In contrast, only 50% of patients with IBS-constipation retained that subtype after infection, whereas 40% transitioned to IBS-mixed. Of patients with pre-existing IBS, 38% had increased frequency of abdominal pain after Campylobacter infection.

Conclusions: In a cohort of patients with Campylobacter infection in Minnesota, 21% developed PI-IBS; most cases reported mixed IBS or diarrhea of moderate severity. Demographic and clinical factors during acute enterocolitis are associated with PI-IBS development. Campylobacter infection also can result in a switch of a pre-existing IBS phenotype.

Keywords: Epidemiology; Foodborne Illness; Functional GI Disorders; Gastroenteritis; Microbiome.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Campylobacter Infections* / complications
  • Campylobacter Infections* / epidemiology
  • Campylobacter*
  • Diarrhea
  • Female
  • Gastroenteritis* / complications
  • Gastroenteritis* / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome* / complications
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome* / epidemiology
  • Risk Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires