The typhoid fever is about to make victims worldwide, according to a new study. It appears that a single family of bacteria, called H58, has been able to release a drug-resistant epidemic of typhoid in Africa, and is silently spreading, posing great threat to human health.
The study was carried out by 74 scientists in around 24 countries, comprising a vast amount of genetic data on the bacterial infection. The conclusions are far from being comforting. “H58 is displacing other typhoid strains, completely transforming the genetic architecture of the disease and creating a previously underappreciated and on-going epidemic,” the scientists stated. The researchers collected bacteria from 63 countries, starting from 1992 and ending in 2013. Throughout the research, they were able to sequence the genomes coming from 1,832 samples of Salmonella Typhi. Their findings revealed that 47 percent of them were from the H58 version of the virus. This strain appeared in South Asia more than 25 years ago and then it spread in regions of East and South Africa, Fiji, Western and Southeast Asia. Apparently, there is currently an outbreak of Typhoid in Africa.
But what makes this infection so dangerous, one might ask. Kathryn Holt, who is a scientist at the University of Melbourne in Australia and one of the members of the team of experts said that this type of typhoid is resulting from bacteria that has gained resistance due to the fact that strains have mixed as they spread from one person to another. The fact that the resistance genes are likely to become part of the genome means “multiple antibiotic resistant typhoid is here to stay,” Holt says.
Typhoid is a bacterial infection caused by Salmonella Typhi. Its symptoms may vary in intensity from one person to another and they are not always the same. The most common ones include abdominal pain, weakness, constipation, headaches, skin rash and especially high fever. These can last up to a few months. There are people who are not affected by the disease but they can still spread it to others. It is mostly spread by eating food or drinking water that had been contaminated with an infected person’s feces. It is most likely to spread in poor areas with poor sanitation. The disease can have a fatal outcome if it is not treated properly in about 20 percent of cases, especially if complications emerge in the gut or head. More than 20 million cases are reported every year, with about 200,000 deaths. Nowadays, there are vaccines available and the known versions of the virus have been so far treated with antibiotics. Nevertheless, the new study reveals that the H58 strain is likely to spread because it does not respond to antibiotics treatment.
The results of the study were published in the journal Nature Genetics on Monday, the 11th of May, 2015, calling for urgent international attention.
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