Salmonella poisoning has been a serious issue in America for a number of years. It’s the second leading cause of foodborne illness after norovirus, but its effects are much more severe than the effects of norovirus. There are about 1.4 million cases of salmonella reported annually. More than 15,000 people per year are hospitalized because of salmonella poisoning, and about 400 people die every year from the illness. The Center for Disease Control also believes that for every reported case, there are 39 undiagnosed infections. These numbers have stayed the same since 1996.
The salmonella bacteria can be found in wild animals, farm animals, and pets. Poultry are most likely to carry the bacteria, so it sometimes contaminates eggs and milk. Symptoms include fever, abdominal cramps, and dehydration.
Currently, there is no vaccine for salmonella poisoning. When an individual has salmonella poisoning, antibiotics are usually the first treatment option. However, some strains of salmonella are developing a resistance to antibiotics, which is very concerning for doctors and researchers. Young children and people with compromised immune systems have an increased risk of catching invasive non-typhoidal salmonellosis, which results in systemic infection. There are about one million cases of this infection per year, and about 25 percent are fatal.
Salmonella poisoning is also very dangerous because it can be used as a bioweapon. In Oregon in the 1980s, a religious cult contaminated the salad bar at a restaurant and gave about 750 people salmonella poisoning. Of the infected individuals, 45 were hospitalized because the infection became so severe. This was the largest bioterror attack in the United States, and individuals today are just as susceptible to the illness as they were in the 1980s.
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Oral Vaccine Against Salmonella
Fortunately, in the near future, salmonella may not be as prevalent of a problem. A research team from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston successfully developed an oral vaccine against salmonella poisoning. Their study and findings were published in Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology.
In the team’s early studies, they developed potential vaccines from genetically mutated versions of Salmonella Typhimurium, the salmonella bacteria. These vaccines successfully protected mice from a lethal dose of salmonella. In these tests, they administered the vaccines with an injection.
In their newer tests, they gave the vaccines to the mice orally and had similar results to their first tests. The vaccines were successful in protecting mice from a large dose of salmonella. Oral vaccinations are much simpler and easier than injections. Receiving the vaccination orally will also let the vaccine travel through your body in the same pathway that salmonella poisoning does, which will better equip your body to defend itself from the infection.
The team’s lead researcher is Ashok Chopra, a professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. The other researchers include Tatiana Erova, Michelle Kirtley, Jourdan Andersson, Yingzi Cong, Jian Sha, Bethany Tiner, and Duraisamy Ponnusamy.
According to Chopra, it will probably take about five years before a vaccine is available. When the vaccine is available to the public, though, it could drastically reduce the number of people infected with salmonella poisoning, and it could save many lives.
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