Campylobacter vs. Helicobacter

What's the Difference?

Campylobacter and Helicobacter are both bacteria that belong to the same family, Helicobacteraceae, and share similar characteristics. However, they differ in terms of their pathogenicity and the diseases they cause. Campylobacter is primarily known for causing gastrointestinal infections, commonly referred to as campylobacteriosis, which is characterized by symptoms like diarrhea, abdominal pain, and fever. On the other hand, Helicobacter is notorious for causing peptic ulcers and chronic gastritis. Additionally, Helicobacter pylori, a specific species of Helicobacter, has been linked to the development of gastric cancer. Both bacteria are commonly found in the digestive tracts of animals, but Campylobacter is more frequently associated with contaminated food, while Helicobacter is mainly transmitted through person-to-person contact.


ShapeCurved rodsCurved rods
Oxygen RequirementMicroaerophilicMicroaerophilic
Gram StainGram-negativeGram-negative
FlagellaMultiple flagellaMultiple flagella
PathogenicityCauses gastroenteritisCauses peptic ulcers
ReservoirAnimals (poultry, cattle, etc.)Humans
TransmissionContaminated food, water, or contact with animalsPerson-to-person, fecal-oral route

Further Detail


Campylobacter and Helicobacter are two distinct genera of bacteria that belong to the same family, Helicobacteraceae. Despite their similarities in terms of shape and habitat, these bacteria differ significantly in their pathogenicity, clinical manifestations, and associated diseases. In this article, we will delve into the attributes of Campylobacter and Helicobacter, exploring their morphology, physiology, epidemiology, and the diseases they cause.

Morphology and Physiology

Campylobacter and Helicobacter are both Gram-negative, spiral-shaped bacteria with a characteristic helical morphology. However, Campylobacter species are typically curved or S-shaped, while Helicobacter species exhibit a more tightly coiled helix. Both genera possess flagella, which enable them to move in a corkscrew-like motion, facilitating their penetration of the mucus layer in the gastrointestinal tract.

Regarding physiology, Campylobacter species are microaerophilic, meaning they require low levels of oxygen to survive. They are also capnophilic, thriving in environments with increased carbon dioxide levels. In contrast, Helicobacter species are microaerophilic but do not require carbon dioxide for growth. This distinction in their physiological requirements contributes to differences in their habitats and clinical manifestations.


Campylobacteriosis, caused by Campylobacter species, is one of the most common bacterial foodborne illnesses worldwide. It is primarily transmitted through the consumption of contaminated poultry, unpasteurized milk, and contaminated water. Campylobacter jejuni is the most prevalent species associated with human infections, while Campylobacter coli is also occasionally implicated.

On the other hand, Helicobacter pylori, the most well-known species of Helicobacter, is a highly prevalent bacterium that colonizes the human stomach. It is estimated that approximately half of the world's population is infected with H. pylori. The main route of transmission is person-to-person, primarily through oral-oral or fecal-oral routes. Poor sanitation, crowded living conditions, and contaminated water sources contribute to its spread.

While Campylobacteriosis is primarily an acute, self-limiting infection, H. pylori infection can persist for decades if left untreated. This chronic colonization of the stomach by H. pylori is associated with the development of various gastrointestinal diseases, including peptic ulcers, gastric adenocarcinoma, and gastric mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue (MALT) lymphoma.

Clinical Manifestations and Associated Diseases

Campylobacteriosis typically presents with symptoms such as diarrhea (often bloody), abdominal pain, fever, and malaise. In severe cases, it can lead to complications like Guillain-Barré syndrome, a rare neurological disorder characterized by muscle weakness and paralysis. Most individuals recover without specific treatment, although supportive care and fluid replacement may be necessary in severe cases.

On the other hand, H. pylori infection is often asymptomatic, with the majority of infected individuals remaining unaware of their colonization. However, when symptoms do occur, they can include abdominal pain, bloating, nausea, and vomiting. As mentioned earlier, chronic H. pylori infection is strongly associated with the development of peptic ulcers, particularly duodenal ulcers. It is also a major risk factor for the development of gastric cancer and MALT lymphoma.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Diagnosing Campylobacteriosis involves the isolation and identification of Campylobacter species from stool samples. This is typically achieved through culture techniques, although molecular methods such as polymerase chain reaction (PCR) are becoming increasingly common due to their higher sensitivity and specificity. Antibiotic susceptibility testing is crucial to guide appropriate treatment, as resistance to commonly used antibiotics has been observed.

Similarly, diagnosing H. pylori infection can be achieved through various methods, including non-invasive tests such as urea breath tests, stool antigen tests, and serological assays. Invasive techniques, such as endoscopic biopsy with histological examination or rapid urease testing, may also be employed. Treatment of H. pylori infection involves a combination of antibiotics (commonly clarithromycin, amoxicillin, and metronidazole) and proton pump inhibitors to reduce gastric acid secretion. Eradication of the bacterium is crucial to prevent disease progression and reduce the risk of associated complications.


In conclusion, while Campylobacter and Helicobacter share similarities in their helical morphology and microaerophilic nature, they differ significantly in terms of their pathogenicity, clinical manifestations, and associated diseases. Campylobacteriosis is primarily an acute, self-limiting infection transmitted through contaminated food and water, whereas H. pylori infection is a chronic colonization of the stomach associated with the development of peptic ulcers, gastric cancer, and MALT lymphoma. Accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment are essential for managing these bacterial infections and preventing their associated complications.

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