An Epidemic of Food Poisoning in the U.S.
Salmonella is a common bacterium that lives in the gut of most vertebrate animals. When taken in by eating contaminated food it can cause severe diarrhea, if untreated it can lead to dysentery, a life threatening disease. If Salmonella enters the blood stream, as it does in 1 to 4 percent of cases, it can also be life threatening and requires antibiotics for treatment.
About 50,000 cases of Salmonella food poisoning are reported each year in the U.S. This certainly is an underestimate because most people don’t seek medical help for food poisoning. The Centers for Disease Control estimate there are 2 to 4 million cases of food poisoning in the U.S. each year.
Within the last twenty years a new strain of Salmonella has emerged as a leading cause of food poisoning. This new strain comes to us from contaminated poultry. It is not known why it has become prevalent. In a recent Science article Baümler et al. propose a flock immunity hypothesis to account for the rise of this formerly obscure pathogen.