A recent study has allegedly linked cattle farming to an “increased prevalence of self-reported symptoms associated with peripheral neuropathy,” raising questions about the role of Campylobacter jejuni infection in Guillain-Barré Syndrome (BGS). Leora Vegosen, et al., “Neurologic Symptoms Associated with Cattle Farming in the Agricultural Health Study,” Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, October 2012. According to the study, C. jejuni “is the most frequently identified antecedent to [GBS],” “the leading cause of acute flaccid paralysis in the United States and worldwide.” Relying on data from 8,887 cattle farmers enrolled in the Agricultural Health Study, which originally sought to assess associations between pesticides and certain health outcomes, researchers concluded that “the prevalence of both reported numbness and weakness was increased in cattle farmers as a group” compared to farmers without livestock exposure.
“This association is consistent with, but does not specifically indicate, an association between occupational exposures in cattle farming and increased prevalence of C. jejuni-associated autoimmune peripheral neuropathy,” states the study. “Despite the high prevalence of Campylobacter in cattle, there is a dearth of research on peripheral neuropathy in cattle farmers, and this study provides important information and rationale for further research to address this issue… Further clarification of this potentially important health risk would be beneficial to informing the development and implementation of policies to protect the health of farmworkers and rural communities.”