Drug-resistant Typhoid Superbug Spreading Worldwide

Drug-resistant Typhoid Superbug Spreading Worldwide
Young woman with typhoid tim kubacki / Flickr CC BY 2.0
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A worldwide epidemic is feared over a strain of typhoid fever called H58 spreading across the developing countries. The H58 is resistant to any antibiotic drug and may only be stopped by injecting preventive vaccines. The developing countries heavily affected by the superbug typhoid are currently not treating the bacteria with vaccinations.


H58 has now spread globally

An analysis of the resistant typhoid strain showed that H58 is now replacing previous typhoid fever strains treatable with antibiotic drugs. The spread of the superbug is changing the genetic architecture of typhoid fever. The drug-resistant H58 has spread across countries in Asia and Africa over the last 30 years and is now threatening a worldwide epidemic, according to a study published in Nature Genetics.

“Typhoid affects around 30 million people each year and global surveillance at this scale is critical to address the ever-increasing public health threat caused by multidrug resistant typhoid in many developing countries around the world,” said Dr Vanessa Wong from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and one of the authors of the study.

“Multidrug resistant typhoid has been coming and going since the 1970s and is caused by the bacteria picking up novel antimicrobial resistance genes, which are usually lost when we switch to a new drug. In H58, these genes are becoming a stable part of the genome, which means multiply antibiotic resistant typhoid is here to stay,” said Dr Kathryn Holt from the University of Melbourne and one of the senior authors of the study.

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The scientists are now calling for global surveillance of the superbug in order to prevent the epidemic of the drug-resistant typhoid fever.

“Global surveillance at this scale is critical to address the ever-increasing public health threat caused by multidrug resistant typhoid,” Wong explained.

“H58 is an example of an emerging multiple drug resistant pathogen which is rapidly spreading around the world. In this study we have been able to provide a framework for future surveillance of this bacterium, which will enable us to understand how antimicrobial resistance emerges and spreads intercontinentally, with the aim to facilitate prevention and control of typhoid through the use of effective antimicrobials, introduction of vaccines, and water and sanitation programmes,” said Professor Gordon Dougan, senior author from the Sanger Institute.

5,700 cases of typhoid fever occur in the United States

There are about 5,700 cases of typhoid fever occurring in the United States each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or CDC. Seventy-five percent of the Americans affected by typhoid fever acquired the bacteria while traveling internationally, especially in the developing countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America, CDC said.

People who are sick with typhoid shed the bacteria in their stools. The bacteria are contracted by another if the said person eats and drinks food and beverages that have been handled by a person shedding the bacteria, CDC said. A person may also get typhoid fever if he happens to drink beverage made from water contaminated with sewage.

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