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Salmonella Infections - Types, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

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Salmonella infections affect human beings in mild to severe ways for which treatment is needed. Read below to know more.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Shubadeep Debabrata Sinha

Published At September 29, 2023
Reviewed AtFebruary 12, 2024


Salmonella is a bacterial pathogen that is found everywhere, including plants and animals, and is the most common infection throughout the world. It can present itself as a food poisoning infection and also manifest itself as severely affecting enteric fever, which requires a higher level of treatment. Salmonellosis also affects animals, leading to the substantial loss of livestock. Care has to be taken to prevent any contamination with the infected organism, and proper diagnosis is made to detect the presence of infection and to administer a proper treatment depending on the clinical condition of the individual.

What Is Salmonella?

Salmonella is a bacteria belonging to the family of Enterobacteriaceae. It causes a bacterial infection that has an effect on the intestinal system. It can survive from a few weeks to several months, depending on the surroundings. The survival rate of Salmonella is higher in water than in dry lands. Variants of Salmonella are known to cause different infections.

What Are Salmonella Infections?

The Salmonella infection, which is ingested from food, passes through the stomach and invades the lining of the small and large intestines. Once the lining epithelial cells are invaded, cytokines are stimulated, which produces an inflammatory response. This response causes diarrhea, leading to the destruction of the stomach mucosa and ulceration. It can also spread from the intestines to other parts of the body.

What Are the Types of Salmonella Infections?

Salmonella infections are commonly known as salmonellosis. Salmonellosis can range from mild to lethal illnesses, such as:

  • Salmonella Gastroenteritis - Commonly known as food poisoning, this is a condition that harbors the Salmonella bacteria. These bacteria affect the intestinal lining and show symptoms such as the following. Diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramps. This condition usually lasts for a week at least and has the capability to spread to distant organs..

  • Typhoid Fever - It is a bacterial infection that can affect many organs in the body. Treatment is highly necessary; otherwise, it can lead to serious complications. Salmonella typhi is the bacteria causing typhoid fever. Symptoms of typhoid fever include headache, general body aches, cough, fatigue, and constipation. Antibiotics are administered to treat the infection, and hospital admission is necessary in case of serious complications.

  • Paratyphoid Fever - Paratyphoid fever cannot be distinguished from typhoid fever in most cases. Paratyphoid is caused by the bacteria paratyphoid A, paratyphoid B, and paratyphoid C, causing potentially severe and life-threatening illnesses.

What Are the Causes and Modes of Transmission?

The distribution of Salmonella is seen as wild and domestic. Prevalence of the presence of infection is seen in most food animals, such as pigs, cattle, and poultry. It can follow the complete food chain from animal feed to consumption. In most parts of the world, they can be transmitted from animals to humans. Human-to-human transmission can also occur in contact with infected animals and pets. It is not necessary that the infected animal show signs of symptoms.

What Are the Symptoms of Salmonella Infections?

Salmonella infections present with the following symptoms:

  • Abdominal pain.

  • Fever.

  • Nausea and vomiting.

  • Diarrhea.

  • Dehydration.

Who Is at Risk of Developing Salmonella Infections?

The likelihood of contracting Salmonella may rise due to several factors. Among these are:

  • Consuming raw or undercooked meat, eggs, poultry, or vegetables, as well as raw alfalfa sprouts, without washing them first.

  • Taking care of pets or creatures like lizards, turtles, and snakes.

  • Individuals who take medications such as antacids and antibiotics. These medications weaken the immune system.

  • Individuals with inflammatory bowel disease.

  • Children under age five.

In addition to the above, individuals with the following risk factors are more susceptible to severe infection from Salmonella.

  • Individuals older than 65.

  • Children below 12 months of age.

  • Poor immune system due to chemotherapy or other illnesses.

  • Sickle cell disease (a blood disorder).

What Are the Diagnosis Methods for Salmonella Infections?

Salmonella infections can be detected by testing a specimen in the laboratory, such as blood or stool. The following are the laboratory tests:

  • Blood Culture - The culture of the specimen is done to isolate the Salmonella bacteria.

  • Culture Independent Diagnostic Test - The bacteria's genetic material is detected by this test.

  • Serotyping - Depending on the structures present on the Salmonella's surface. It is the serotypes that determine the severity of the illness.

When to Visit a Physician?

Since most cases of Salmonella infection resolve on their own in a few days, the majority of individuals are not required to see a doctor.

However, if the illness affects a newborn, young child, elderly person, or someone with a compromised immune system and experiences the following symptoms, it is always better to visit a physician.

  • Illness that persists for more than a few days.

  • High fever.

  • Bloody stools.

  • Signs of dehydration include dry mouth, less urination, and dark-colored urine.

What Are the Treatment Methods for Salmonella Infections?

Patients suffering from mild salmonellosis do not require any specific treatment. Symptomatic treatment is done to treat dehydration.

  • Electrolyte Replacement and Rehydration - It provides electrolytes such as potassium, sodium, and chloride ions, which are lost through diarrhea and vomiting.

  • Antimicrobial Therapy - Not every individual infected with Salmonella requires antimicrobial therapy. Mild to moderate cases do not require antimicrobial therapy, whereas immunocompromised individuals, along with individuals in whom the infection has spread from the intestines to other parts of the body, are administered the therapy.

  • Combatting Antibiotics Resistance - Antibiotic resistance is on the rise globally, and treatment should be reviewed regularly, considering the resistance pattern of bacteria to antibiotics.

  • Anti-diarrheal Medication - Loperamide is a drug that helps in relieving the symptoms of diarrhea.

What Are the Complications of Salmonella Infections?

Complications include the following:

1. Dehydration: Among the cautionary indicators are

  • Less frequent or darker-colored urination

  • Dry mouth and tongue

  • Feeling more exhausted than normal

  • Disorientation or irritability

  • Muscle cramps.

  • Increased heart rate.

  • Appetite loss.

2. Bacteremia: Salmonella infection may harm any part of the tissues in the body if it gets into circulation.

3. Reactive Arthritis (Reiter’s Syndrome): Salmonella infections increase the likelihood of getting reactive arthritis in people who have experienced the illness. This results in unpleasant urination, eye discomfort, and joint pain.

4. Osteomyelitis: Osteomyelitis, a rare bone infection caused by Salmonella, is more common in people with sickle cell disease.

What Are the Preventive Measures for Salmonella Infection?

Following control measures from the production of food to food processing and consumption of food at home is necessary.

  • Precautions should be followed during contact between young children and pets.

  • Ensuring the consumption of hot and properly cooked food.

  • Preferring only boiled or pasteurized milk over raw milk and milk products.

  • Utilizing the ice made of safe water.

  • Boiling the water and cooling it to drink is a method to rely on when the purity of the water is questionable.

  • Clean and wash vegetables and fruits or peel them before consuming.

  • Control of Salmonella infections: vaccines are available which are effective against typhoid fever and not against non-typhoid infections.


Salmonella bacteria are usually bacterial infections that infect the intestinal tract. The symptoms present during the course of infection can range from mild to severe. Treatment is not necessary for every individual. Individuals showing long-term symptoms and worsening of the clinical condition generally require treatment. Consulting a physician is necessary as and when the symptoms appear to rule out the occurrence of any complication.

Dr. Shubadeep Debabrata Sinha
Dr. Shubadeep Debabrata Sinha

Infectious Diseases


salmonella infection
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