Certain serotypes of S. enterica, primarily serotype Typhi (S. typhi) but also Paratyphi, cause a more severe type of salmonellosis called typhoid fever. This serious illness, which has an untreated mortality rate of 10%, causes high fever, body aches, headache, nausea, lethargy, and a possible rash.
Some individuals carry S. typhi without presenting signs or symptoms (known as asymptomatic carriers) and continually shed them through their feces. These carriers often have the bacteria in the gallbladder or intestinal epithelium. Individuals consuming food or water contaminated with these feces can become infected.
S. typhi penetrate the intestinal mucosa, grow within the macrophages, and are transported through the body, most notably to the liver and gallbladder. Eventually, the macrophages lyse, releasing S. typhi into the bloodstream and lymphatic system. Mortality can result from ulceration and perforation of the intestine. A wide range of complications, such as pneumonia and jaundice, can occur with disseminated disease.
S. typhi have Salmonella pathogenicity islands (SPIs) that contain the genes for many of their virulence factors. Two examples of important typhoid toxins are the Vi antigen, which encodes for capsule production, and chimeric A2B5 toxin, which causes many of the signs and symptoms of the acute phase of typhoid fever.
Clinical examination and culture are used to make the diagnosis. The bacteria can be cultured from feces, urine, blood, or bone marrow. Serology, including ELISA, is used to identify the most pathogenic strains, but confirmation with DNA testing or culture is needed. A PCR test can also be used, but is not widely available.
The recommended antibiotic treatment involves fluoroquinolones, ceftriaxone, and azithromycin. Individuals must be extremely careful to avoid infecting others during treatment. Typhoid fever can be prevented through vaccination for individuals traveling to parts of the world where it is common.
Parker, N., Schneegurt, M., Thi Tu, A.-H., Forster, B. M., & Lister, P. (n.d.). Microbiology. Houston, Texas: OpenStax. Access for free at: https://openstax.org/details/books/microbiology