October 2, 2012
Researchers are warning of an intestinal disease in sub-Saharan Africa that is affecting immune-compromised individuals, including mostly HIV-infected individuals who are not in treatment and children who are malnourished or infected with the malaria parasite. Chinyere Okoro of Britain's Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute states that the disease, known as Salmonella typhimurium, can be found in all of sub-Saharan Africa. It is caused by a bacterium and is found in the bloodstream, but it can invade other internal organs. According to Okoro, in a healthy individual the disease causes gastroenteritis. In persons with compromised immune systems, the disease causes a more severe reaction similar to typhoid fever. It progresses rapidly and can cause death in a matter of days. It kills up to 45 percent of those who are infected. HIV-infected persons who are receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART) are less likely to become infected. With ART, the individual's immune system is not as compromised for the disease to take hold.
DNA analysis of the bacterium shows that it first occurred about 50 years ago in southeastern Africa, then about 35 years ago, possibly from the Congo. These routes are similar to those taken by HIV. In the past decade, Salmonella typhimurium was treated with the antibiotic chloramphenicol, but it quickly became resistant to that drug. It can be treated with newer, more powerful, and more expensive antibiotics. This disease emphasizes the importance of getting HIV-infected Africans on ART and providing malaria treatment and food for vulnerable children.