Except in infection with C. fetus, bacteremia is uncommon, developing most often in immunocompromised hosts and at the extremes of age. Three patterns of extraintestinal infection have been noted: (1) transient bacteremia in a normal host with enteritis (benign course, no specific treatment needed); (2) sustained bacteremia or focal infection in a normal host (bacteremia originating from enteritis, with patients responding well to antimicrobial therapy); and (3) sustained bacteremia or focal infection in a compromised host. Enteritis may not be clinically apparent. Antimicrobial therapy, possibly prolonged, is necessary for suppression or cure of the infection.
Campylobacter, Arcobacter, and intestinal Helicobacter infections in patients with AIDS or hypogammaglobulinemia may be severe, persistent, and extraintestinal; relapse after cessation of therapy is common. Hypogammaglobulinemic patients also may develop osteomyelitis and an erysipelas-like rash or cellulitis.
Local suppurative complications of infection include cholecystitis, pancreatitis, and cystitis; distant complications include meningitis, endocarditis, arthritis, peritonitis, cellulitis, and septic abortion. All these complications are rare, except in immunocompromised hosts. Hepatitis, interstitial nephritis, and the hemolytic-uremic syndrome occasionally complicate acute infection. Reactive arthritis and other rheumatologic complaints may develop several weeks after infection, especially in persons with the HLA-B27 phenotype. Guillain-Barré syndrome or its Miller Fisher (cranial polyneuropathy) variant follows Campylobacter infections uncommonly—i.e., in 1 of every 1000–2000 cases or, for certain C. jejuni serotypes (such as O19), in 1 of every 100–200 cases. Despite the low frequency of this complication, it is now estimated that Campylobacter infections, because of their high incidence, may trigger 20–40% of all cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome. Asymptomatic Campylobacter infection also may trigger this syndrome. Immunoproliferative small-intestinal disease (alpha chain disease), a form of lymphoma that originates in small-intestinal mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue, has been associated with C. jejuni; antimicrobial therapy has led to marked clinical improvement.