Dr. Donahue on HIV Link to New Virulent Strains of Salmonella
Focus: : The iNTS [invasive,non-typhoidal salmonella] epidemic is caused by a strain of salmonella that has been undergoing genetic changes that coincide with the HIV epidemic, and that appears to be adapting to its humans carriers and to our efforts to treat it.
Study: HIV Appears Responsible for New Virulent Strains of Salmonella
Contagious pathogens spread and evolve in those with suppressed immune systems.
PROBLEM: Salmonella, which we typically contract from tainted food and experience as unpleasant but not extraordinarily threatening, poses a much greater risk to people with HIV. Their suppressed immune systems allow a specific strain, Salmonella typhimurium, to infect their blood and cause invasive, non-typhoidal salmonella (iNTS), a far more serious disease with a death risk of up to 45 percent. In sub-Saharan Africa, a highly invasive form of iNTS has developed; researchers are attempting to understand how and why the epidemic is spreading.
Analysis by Donald. A. Donahue, Jr., DHEd, MBA, FACHE
The emergence of iNTS [invasive, non-typhoidal salmonella] is a textbook example of bacterial evolution and how mankind inadvertently facilitates the advent of novel diseases. Bacteria and viruses adapt to their environment, the weaker strains dying off but those remaining presenting a greater threat to host organisms. To this eternal dynamic we add three contributing factors:
(1) a potentially modifying, co-existing biological presence – HIV,
(2) incomplete treatment that results in greater resistance, and
(3) unprecedented human mobility.
One positive aspect of the referenced study is that science and epidemiology are sufficiently advanced as to allow tracking of specific diseases. This can facilitate greater understanding of the disease’s spread and support more effective countermeasures.
An ominous counterpoint is that this phenomenon is possible across the full spectrum of communicable diseases, including influenza, tuberculosis, and staphylococcus (e.g., MRSA). This points to the panoply of prevention advice offered by public health and medical experts.
Frequent hand washing, cough etiquette, current immunizations (including those specific to travel), practicing safer sex, proper diet, and exercise remain weapons in our arsenal against communicable disease.
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