Antibiotic-Resistant Typhoid From Asia Is Spreading Worldwide

Antibiotic-resistant typhoid from Asia spreads worldwide

The S. Thyphi genomes covered only a fraction of all cases of typhoid fever. (File)

Treatment-resistant typhoid fever, mainly native to South Asia, has crossed the border nearly 200 times in the past three decades, according to new research underlining the rising global threat of infections that antibiotics can evade.

Between 2014 and 2019, scientists sequenced the genomes of 3,489 cases of S. Typhi, the bacterium that causes typhoid fever and kills more than 100,000 people each year. Data from four heavily taxed countries — Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan — were combined with an analysis of 4,169 comparable samples from more than 70 countries over a 113-year period, making it the largest study of its kind.

The findings, published in The Lancet Microbe, showed that while resistance to first-line treatments declined overall in South Asia, global problems persisted. The number of strains that can overwhelm macrolides and quinolones, two major types of antibiotics, has risen sharply, often spreading to other countries, the study found.

For years, scientists have been beating the drums about increasing cases of deadly insects that can survive treatment with the most powerful antibiotics. According to a separate study published in January, more people died of drug-resistant diseases in 2019 than HIV or malaria. Recent examples include rising infections in the US, along with last year’s deadly fungal outbreak in India, where the misuse of antibiotics in humans and animals is exacerbated by poor sanitation.

The findings are “a real cause for concern,” said Jason Andrews, an associate professor at Stanford University and the study’s lead author, urging prevention measures, especially in high-risk countries.

“The fact that resistant S. typhi strains have spread so widely internationally also underscores the need to view typhoid control and antibiotic resistance more broadly as a global rather than a local problem,” he said.

The study, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, had some limitations, including the underrepresentation of samples from endemic regions such as Sub-Saharan Africa and Oceania. The S. Thyphi genomes covered only a fraction of all cases of typhoid fever, meaning the researchers’ estimates likely fell short of the true scale of global distribution and resistance.

(This story was not edited by NDTV staff and was generated automatically from a syndicated feed.)

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