An antibiotic-resistant “superbug” strain of typhoid fever has spread globally, driven by a single family of the bacteria, called H58, according to the findings of a large international study. The research, involving some 74 scientists in almost two dozen countries, is one of the most comprehensive sets of genetic data on a human infectious agent and paints a worrying scene of an “ever-increasing public health threat”, they said. Typhoid is contracted by drinking or eating contaminated matter and symptoms include nausea, fever, abdominal pain and pink spots on the chest. Untreated, the disease can lead to complications in the gut and head, which may prove fatal in up to 20 percent of patients.

Vaccines are available — although, due to limited cost effectiveness, not widely used in poorer countries — and regular strains of the infection can be treated with antibiotic drugs. However, this study found that the H58 “superbug” version, which is resistant to multiple types of antibiotics, is now becoming dominant. “H58 is displacing other typhoid strains, completely transforming the genetic architecture of the disease and creating a previously under appreciated and on-going epidemic,” the researchers said in a statement about their findings. MORE