Human salmonellosis is an infectious disease caused by bacteria of the genus Salmonella. Various studies indicate that this microorganism is very widespread among poultry livestock species (such as chickens and their derived products), as well as on the surface of other foods, such as meat, fruits and vegetables.
It is essential to differentiate between typhoid salmonellosis and its non-typhoid variant. The first is caused by the microorganism Salmonella typhi and is a typical disease of contaminated waters. On the other hand, non-typhoid salmonellosis is caused by the bacteria Salmonella bongori and Salmonella enterica Typhimurium.
These last two microorganisms are the ones that cause the clinical picture of diarrhea and other gastrointestinal symptoms. Due to its greater epidemiological interest, it will be in this variant that we will focus on. Here we tell you, then, what is salmonellosis and how to treat it.
About its distribution
The World Health Organization (WHO) warns us of the importance of foodborne diseases since it is estimated that one in 10 people at any given time are fighting them (550 million inhabitants on Earth per year). Also, it is estimated that these pathologies cause a loss of 33 million years of healthy life in the general population over time.
This portal also provides us with certain information regarding non-typhoid salmonellosis:
- Salmonella bacteria cause more than 1.35 million infections annually, of which 26,500 require patient hospitalization. 420 of all cases lead to death. All these figures are collected only in the United States.
- Salmonellosis outbreaks often attract the attention of the media, but around the globe, between 60% and 80% of cases are considered sporadic and isolated.
All these data show that, far from being a distant pathology in time and space, it is present in our society in a very usual way. Therefore, knowing it is essential to take preventive measures.
What is salmonellosis, and how to treat it?
The microorganisms that cause the pathology that concerns us today, as we have said previously, are bacteria of the genus Salmonella. These are facultative anaerobic pathogens (which can grow with or without the presence of oxygen), gram-negative, round in shape, belonging to the Enterobacteriaceae family.
Research shows that the Salmonella genus is made up of two species, of which S. enterica (serotype Typhimurium ) is the cause of most cases of clinical relevance.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and WHO list the symptoms of non-typhoid salmonellosis. Some of the signs of infection of this microorganism are the following:
- Symptoms begin from 6 hours to 6 days after ingestion of material infected with the bacteria. The dose of injection of microorganisms to generate infection is estimated to be relatively large (between 100,000 and 1,000,000 microorganisms).
- The most common is the presence of diarrhea, which may contain blood, since these bacteria adhere to the intestinal mucosa and gastric epithelium, causing damage to them.
- Fevers, intestinal pain, cramps, and bloating are also experienced.
- Dehydration, with low urine output, dizziness and dry mouth, occurs from excessive vomiting or diarrhea.
Treatment of salmonellosis
Clinical bibliographic sources inform us that salmonellosis and campylobacteriosis are the zoonotic diseases (that is, of animal origin) with the highest prevalence and expansion in high-income countries. Therefore, it is necessary to have an adjusted treatment protocol for the most serious cases.
Most patients recover without specific treatment. A light diet and continuous hydration to replace the loss of fluids due to diarrhea should be more than enough measures to overcome the disease without major complications.
Even so, in severe cases, the administration of electrolytes (sodium, potassium and chloride ions) may be necessary due to an excessive loss. Antibiotics can also be administered in risk groups, but this approach is highly reserved, as it promotes the emergence of long-term resistant strains.
As we have already said, salmonellosis is a disease of a zoonotic nature. Studies show that, as they are intestinal bacteria, they are disposed of with the feces of contaminated animals or sick people and can colonize a large number of environments, including food surfaces and wastewater.
It is impossible to identify food infected with Salmonella because it smells and has a normal color. Therefore, the best prevention is to cook meals well and, if they are eaten raw (such as fruits and vegetables), disinfect them thoroughly before consumption, especially if you are travelling in an environment with known cases.
In the situation of farmers and people in the agricultural sector, it is essential to follow a series of protocols for checking the bacteria in livestock and birds. Also, continuous cleaning of the hands and instrumentation of the person in charge of handling the animals and their products is required.
Salmonellosis: what to remember?
As we have been able to see in these lines, we are facing a zoonotic pathology caused by a bacterium. This disease, unfortunately, is widespread throughout the globe, especially in regions with low sanitation and extensive contact with livestock animal species.
For all these reasons, it is essential to exercise extreme caution when consuming food in exotic regions and to travel during the summer. After all, no one wants their vacation to be ruined by an intense bout of diarrhea.