Typhoid-causing bacteria are increasingly resistant to antibiotics

© Microbewriter / Wikimedia Commons/CC BY SA

Typhoid fever is a life-threatening illness that is usually treated with antibiotics. However, there is a high probability that many strains of the bacteria that cause this disease can no longer be eliminated with these drugs, because they have become resistant to antibiotics.

Typhoid fever: what is it?

Fever typhoid is a life-threatening infectious disease caused by the bacteria Salmonella typhi. The origins of the disease go back several millennia, and if it still exists today, typhoid fever is rare in developed countries. On the other hand, it is still a serious health threat in poor countries, especially for children. This disease is usually transmitted through contaminated food and water or through close contact with an infected person.

Symptoms usually include high fever, headache, stomach pain, constipation, or diarrhea. Although typhoid fever can be very unpleasant, most people with the disease feel better a few days after starting antibiotic treatment. In addition, there are vaccines against typhoid fever, although they are only partially effective. So, in our modern world, typhoid fever is not a disease that causes much concern.

This may change, however, as scientists have discovered that many strains of Salmonella typhi become resistant to antibiotics. Indeed, a new study published in the journal The Lancet Microbe showed that new, extremely resistant variants of this bacterium are currently spreading throughout the world. While the disease is quite common in Southeast Asian countries and Africa, these superbugs have been found to circulate in the UK, Canada, and the US as well.

Mary Mallon, the first identified healthy carrier of typhoid fever

The worst can still be avoided

The spread of these antibiotic-resistant bacteria has preoccupied scientists for several years, hence the realization of this large-scale study on the subject. The study is notably based on the sequencing of the genome of S. Typhi on nearly 3,500 isolates obtained from blood samples taken between 2014 and 2019 from people with typhoid fever in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal. More than 4,000 samples of the bacteria from more than 70 countries collected between 1905 and 2018 were also sequenced and included in the analysis.

The results showed that drug-resistant strains of S. Typhi have spread globally at least 197 times since the early 1990s.” The rate at which highly resistant strains of S. typhi have emerged and spread in recent years is a real cause for concern and highlights the need to expand prevention measures, especially in countries most at risk. “, declared in particular the Dr Jason Andrewslead author of the study, in a statement.

This is all the more worrying in our modern world where bacteria spread very easily thanks to the globalization of transport. Faced with this observation, the researchers emphasize the need “ to see typhoid control and antibiotic resistance more generally as a global rather than a local problem “. Indeed, the best way to avoid future epidemics is prevention, especially through vaccination. To go further, discover the tragic fate of Mary Mallon, the first healthy carrier of typhoid fever.

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