The spectrum of Salmonella infection

Infect Dis Clin North Am. 1988 Sep;2(3):571-98.


Salmonellae have demonstrated an extraordinary capacity to adapt to a wide range of ecologic niches and to the peculiarities of modern society, such as the mass production of food products. The vast majority of infections in the United States are caused by serotypes not specifically adapted to human or animal hosts, whereas the most frequent isolate in developing countries is S. typhi, which is highly adapted to human hosts. The number of isolates reported in the United States has been increasing steadily since 1975, largely a result of outbreaks associated with the mass production of food products, particularly poultry, which is frequently contaminated. Salmonella infection occurs when ingested organisms bypass gastric defenses, multiply within the intestinal lumen, penetrate the intestinal mucosa, and multiply within macrophages of the reticuloendothelial system. They may then disseminate via the systemic circulation. Several virulence factors have been identified. The wide range of pathologic and clinical manifestations are subdivided into four syndromes, each requiring a distinct diagnostic and therapeutic approach: (1) gastroenteritis, (2) enteric fever, (3) bacteremia with or without metastatic disease, and (4) asymptomatic carriage. Although any serotype can cause any of these syndromes, certain serotypes are associated with specific presentations. Serious complications of bacteremic infection include infections of the aorta, endocardium, bone, and meninges. Salmonella infection is particularly severe in patients who have AIDS, leukemia, lymphoma, immunodeficiency of other causes, inflammatory bowel disease, schistosomiasis, and macrophage dysfunction. Diagnosis is based on culture of the organism from appropriate sites. Several serologic tests have been developed that warrant further evaluation. Chloramphenicol, ampicillin, amoxicillin, and trimethoprimsulfamethoxazole have clearly established efficacy. Experience with third generation cephalosporins and quinolones is preliminary and fragmentary, but results suggest that they may prove to be efficacious in certain clinical circumstances. Antibiotic resistance has become a major problem in certain geographic areas. The three vaccines for S. typhi that are currently in use internationally provide only moderate protection for short periods of time.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Salmonella Infections* / diagnosis
  • Salmonella Infections* / epidemiology
  • Salmonella Infections* / therapy
  • United States