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What is African Salmonella?

Most of us know what salmonella is.

The common bacterial disease that infects the intestinal tract most likely affects humans through contaminated water or food.

But how many of us are aware of African Salmonella?

I must admit, I hadn’t heard of it until I pursued a holiday illness claim for a man who’d caught the potentially deadly strain of the disease recently.

holiday illness claim

David Worsley spent several days in hospital and saw his testicle expand to the size of a grapefruit before exploding following a holiday in Tunisia.

Mr Worsley thought he was going to die because of the disease.


But what exactly is it?

African Salmonella is a strain of the disease we know which was only discovered fairly recently. The first global-scale genetic study of Salmonella Enteritidis bacteria, which is a major cause of blood poisoning and death in Africa and food poisoning in the Western World, discovered that there are in fact three separate types. Scientists at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and University of Liverpool found two novel African types, which looked the same but were genetically different from the Western type.


So how does African Salmonella affect people?

Salmonella is normally associated with poultry and predominantly infects the intestine, causing diarrhoea. However, according to the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, in Africa the two newly-identified types are a major cause of blood poisoning and death, because in people with weak immune systems, Salmonellae are able to pass with greater ease from the gut into the bloodstream.

There is little information out there but an article on mentions how, in sub-Saharan Africa, Salmonella infections cause drug-resistant, deadly bloodstream infections and meningitis. A study in mice also revealed how these so-called African nontyphoidal Salmonella (NTS) strains leave the gut and spread throughout the body. Ironically, loss of a bacterial gene called sseI has allowed the African NTS lineages to more efficiently hijack immune cells and travel through the blood to different organs.


How dangerous is African Salmonella?

Well, the study that revealed the two African types of Salmonella showed they carried more of the genes that give them resistance to common antibiotics which is worrying. Indeed, Doctor Nick Feasey, first author from the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and the Sanger Institute, said: “In the two novel types of Salmonella Enteritidis we found resistance genes to antibiotics such as amoxicillin and chloramphenicol, that are still widely used in Africa and it may be only a matter of time before resistance to the last line antibiotic, cephalosporin, spreads. We urgently need to find strategies to eradicate this disease.”


If you have been affected by a holiday illness or an accident abroad, contact the specialist travel litigation lawyers at Slater and Gordon on freephone 0800 916 9046 or contact us online.

Hannah Crosby is a travel lawyer at Slater and Gordon Lawyers in Manchester. 

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