Salmonella: Drug-Resistant Strain of Bacteria Gains in Africa, With High Death Rates
A new drug-resistant strain of bacteria has emerged in the last decade in Africa and is causing unusual numbers of deaths there, British and African researchers said on Monday.
The strain, a variant of Salmonella typhimurium, is named ST313. Its genome was decoded by researchers from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and researchers in Kenya and Malawi.
While most salmonella bacteria cause diarrhea and are rarely fatal, this one causes death in one of four cases among children and vulnerable adults in some African regions, the researchers said. Many of its victims have been weakened by the AIDS virus, anemia, malaria or malnutrition.
Salmonella normally circulates in animals and reaches humans via food poisoning. (Consumer Reports said Monday that two-thirds of the chickens it had tested had campylobacter or salmonella, though not of this new strain.)
But after sequencing the bacterial DNA found in about 50 Africans with severe infections, the researchers said the ST313 strain appeared to be mutating to circulate in humans independently of animals, as, for example, drug-resistant staph infections now do.
ST313 “has rapidly gained resistance to many of the commonly used antibiotics in the field,” said Dr. Chisomo Msefula, a researcher, and the multi-drug-resistant form seems to be becoming dominant in parts of Africa as antibiotics knock out competitors.
The paper’s authors said poor countries needed greater access to sophisticated genetic sequencing machines that could spot tiny DNA mutations like the ones making this germ so lethal.