Yersinia enterocolitica is a Gram-negative bacterium. Infection causes the disease yersiniosis, which is an animal-borne disease occurring in humans, as well as in a wide array of animals such as cattle, deer, pigs, and birds. Many of these animals recover from the disease and become carriers; these are potential sources of contagion despite showing no signs of disease.
The portal of entry is the gastrointestinal tract. The organism is acquired usually by insufficiently cooked pork or contaminated water, meat, or milk. Acute Y. enterocolitica infections usually lead to mild self-limiting enterocolitis or terminal ileitis and adenitis in humans. Symptoms may include watery or bloody diarrhea and fever, resembling appendicitis or salmonellosis or shigellosis. After oral uptake, Yersinia species replicate in the terminal ileum and invade Peyer’s patches. From here they can disseminate further to mesenteric lymph nodes causing lymphadenopathy. This condition can be confused with appendicitis, so is called pseudoappendicitis. In immunosuppressed individuals, they can disseminate from the gut to the liver and spleen and form abscesses. Because Yersinia species are siderophilic (iron-loving) bacteria, people with hereditary hemochromatosis (a disease resulting in high body iron levels) are more susceptible to infection with Yersinia (and other siderophilic bacteria). In fact, the most common contaminant of stored blood is Y. enterocolitica.