Yersinia - a dangerous infection

One might think of the pretty name of a flowering plant, but behind it hides a not so harmless intestinal bacteria: Yersinia, which are pathogens that can make themselves felt with a gastrointestinal disease, but untreated, they can also cause painful joint inflammation.

What are Yersinia?

Almost every person becomes infected with Yersinia bacteria during their lifetime. Yersinien are named after the Swiss Alexandre Yersin (1863-1943), the discoverer of the dreaded plague pathogen Yersinia pestis . The rod-shaped stool bacteria occur in many mammals and also birds. The factory farming of pigs and cattle promotes the spread of bacteria of this species.

Yersinia enterocolitica - a febrile enteritis (also called Yersiniosis ) and Yersinia pseudotuberculosis - are especially dangerous for humans . Symptoms include inflammation of the lymph nodes around the intestine with acute abdominal pain. The pain can be diffuse or located in the area of ​​the right lower abdomen. In Germany, a Yersinia infection must be reported to the health department.

Diarrhea due to Yersinia most common

Infections with Yersinia enterocolitica are particularly common: According to serological studies on the normal population, up to 40 percent of the persons examined in Germany have corresponding antibodies - because the tiny bacteria are detectable, for example, by a microbial examination of the stool sample. In a blood test can be directed against the pathogen antibodies that are produced by the immune system proteins. Children and adolescents are most affected.

The disease begins approximately seven to ten days after infection with the following symptoms:

  • pulpy diarrhea
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal cramps and fever

Adolescents and adults may experience severe abdominal pain similar to the symptoms of appendicitis. In adults, Yersinia can also cause flu-like symptoms. Diarrhea does not always occur due to Yersinia. Luckily it rarely happens after the infection to joint inflammation.

Complication of arthritis

Yersinia can affect the lower body joints - knees, hocks and toes. In some cases, so-called reactive arthritis can occur. Some patients also have deep-seated low back pain, suggestive of inflammation of the iliac joints. Experts suggest that about 15 percent of those infected with Yersinia experience such complications. Exact investigations are missing so far however. Whether it is a reactive arthritis, the doctor can only determine by a proof of the pathogens.

Antibiotics are used in acute yersiniosis, antirheumatics in reactive arthritis, where the arthritis is treated with cortisone-free anti-inflammatory drugs.

Prevention and therapy

Infection sources can be contaminated food. Examples are:

  • raw minced meat
  • raw chicken meat
  • unpasteurized milk
  • salad
  • contaminated drinking water

Meat should always be cooked well. Important is the hygiene in the kitchen; When traveling abroad you should be careful with salad, avoid raw meat altogether and use boiled drinking water. Pet animals such as rabbits or guinea pigs, dogs and cats can also transmit Yersinia to humans.

Effects on animals

The occurrence of Yersinia enterocolitica is documented in numerous animal species, the disease symptoms are not clearly recognizable, but usually manifest as diseases of the intestinal tract. In cats, for example, diarrhea occurs sporadically, in addition to the usually asymptomatic diseases. As a precaution, you should consult the veterinarian here.

For severe course: antibiotics

In most people, the immune system successfully fights yersiniosis. Because diarrhea can lead to greater loss of fluids and electrolytes, plenty of fluid must be supplied - possibly supplemented by the administration of electrolytes. In a more severe illness, the use of antibiotics may be necessary. For therapy, antibiotics (tetracyclines such as doxycycline, gyrase inhibitors) are used.

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