In a study published online Wednesday in the Journal of Infectious Diseases, an international team of researchers led by France’s Pasteur Institute describes the emergence of a multidrug-resistant strain of Salmonella, this one a variant of S. Kentucky.

The new strain is highly resistant to several antimicrobials, notably ciprofloxacin, the main antibiotic used to treat severe cases of Salmonella poisoning. Ciprofloxacin is part of the fluoroquinolone class of antibiotics, the report explains.

The scientists say the highly resistant Salmonella Kentucky, which likely emerged in Africa, infected 489 people in France, England, Wales and Denmark between 2000 and 2008, and has turned up in imported spices in North America.

While S. Kentucky is the most common Salmonella serotype found in U.S. poultry, it has caused few illnesses, the report notes. But the scientists theorize that widespread use of fluoroquinolones in Nigeria and Morocco may have helped this variant develop drug resistance. Chickens and turkeys may be carriers.

In a news release, study co-leader Simon Le Hello said, “We hope this publication might stir awareness among national and international health, food and agricultural authorities so that they take the necessary measures to control and stop the dissemination of this strain before it spreads globally, as did another multi-drug resistant strain of salmonella, Typhimurium DT104, starting in the 1990s.”

In the U.S., the Center for Science in the Public Interest has petitioned the U.S. Department of Agriculture to declare four antibiotic-resistant strains of Salmonella — Typhimurium, Newport, Hadar and Heidelberg — as adulterants in ground meat and poultry. Classifying these resistant strains of Salmonella as adulterants would require testing and controls for the pathogens before they reach consumers and make people ill, CSPI says. 

Heidelberg is the antibiotic-resistant Salmonella strain found in ground turkey that has been affecting people in the U.S. since March, killing one person and sickening at least 76 others. For every lab-confirmed case of Salmonella infection, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates there are at least 30 unreported illnesses, so this current outbreak — now linked to Cargill ground turkey brands — could be responsible for more than 2,000 infections. Nearly 40 percent of the case patients have been hospitalized.

According to the CDC, outbreaks caused by antimicrobial-resistant Salmonella have been associated with an increased rate of hospitalization and the rate of death was significantly greater in outbreaks caused by resistant strains.

  • Doc Mudd

    Did I miss your link to the paper reporting epidemiologic tracing of the bug back to chicken farmers in Nigeria and Morocco?
    Your CDC link hypothesizes the bug mutated in Egypt and was spread into Africa and the Middle East. Poultry is named only as a “carrier” of the disease, no mention of poultry farms being the source.
    Damned funny thing, in the real world these resistant strains affecting humans tend to pop up where most farms are wonderfully small and local, where many people live crowded in delightfully retro sub-standard conditions, subsisting on enviable marginally adequate tradtional diets — in a peasant’s paradise by enviro-foodie metrics (oh, but if only could we all just get back to a sustainable 3rd world standard of living, alas).
    Here’s a recent example of another bad bug in India…
    These frightful human pathogens certainly seem, so far, to tend to develop in human populations. I don’t doubt we could make more prudent use of antibiotics in animals (and especially in humans), but the kneejerk assumption that despicable farmers are causing the few emerging problems is a stretch – one that’s not, so far, proving out scientifically. I would have us also suspect despicable doctors, nurses and hospitals…and the know-it-all patients who demand antibiotic therapy and will settle for nothing less.

  • sunny

    Doc Mudd, When I read your entries I always picture doing a crazy jig while speaking what you write poetry-slam style.

  • Doc Mudd

    I suppose there is that chance, however remote, that smug poets will ultimately overtake scientists, technicians and professional farmers, will render them obsolete and useless in our society.
    Picture it: a smartly crafted poem will nourish the hoi polloi, haiku will be their snack food. Proper respect for iambic pentameter will balance sublime nature and eliminate any further need for tacky medical science. Oh, the rapture!
    Yeah, all that could happen.
    Obviously we need more poets and journalism professors instructing us in techniques to safely produce sufficient food on a daily basis for more than 6 billion humans world wide. Forsooth, this rabble would eat cake, would they not?