Sex Can Spread Bacteria That Causes Food Poisoning, Says OU Researcher

By Anna Gallegos

May 24, 2021

A bout of food poisoning might not be caused by what someone ate, but by who they slept with.

A researcher at the University of Oklahoma Hudson College of Public Health found that one of the most common bacteria that causes food poisoning can be spread by sexual contact.

The bacteria Campylobacter is mainly spread to humans by raw or undercooked poultry and eggs, and unpasteurized milk. People who eat something contaminated with Campylobacter mainly have vomiting, diarrhea, and nausea for a few days. It's uncomfortable but is rarely deadly in healthy people.

"Although Campylobacter infection is usually not a serious disease, it causes diarrhea, which can result in people missing work, losing productivity or perhaps losing their job. It poses an additional risk for people with underlying health conditions," infectious disease epidemiologist and OU professor Katrin Kuhn told EurekaAlert.

She decided to look into how the bacteria is spread after there was an outbreak in northern Europe among men who sleep with men.

Kuhn did her study in Denmark and found that the rate of Campylobacter infection was 14 times higher in men who have sex with men than the control subjects. The study did stress that results are relevant to people of all sexual orientations.

"That's an additional reason why we believe Campylobacter can be transmitted through sexual contact ... is because people can become infected when only small amounts of the bacteria are present," Kuhn said.

The research done by Kuhn and her team can be found in Emerging Infectious Diseases, a journal published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Photo: Getty Images

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