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Salmonella Bacteria FAQ

written by: •edited by: Paul Arnold•updated: 9/24/2009

Salmonella bacteria are the most common cause of food borne illnesses. Find out more about salmonella bacteria characteristics with our salmonella FAQ.

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    What are Salmonella Bacteria?

    Salmonella bacteria are rod-shaped, non spore-forming motile microbes that can be found in poultry, pigs, cows, pets, and many wild animals. There are more than 2,000 different serotypes of the bacteria, but it's Salmonella Enteritidis and Salmonella Typhimurium that cause more than 50% of human infections. Salmonella bacteria were discovered by the Theobald Smith, but named in honour of his boss Daniel Elmer Salmon.

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    What Size are Salmonella Bacteria?

    SalmonellaNIAID These rod-shaped microbes range from 0.7 to 1.5 µm in diamater and from 2 to 5 µm in length. They possess flagella which project in all directions and enable them to move around.

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    Can Salmonella Bacteria Benefit Us In Any Way?

    Scientists at the University of Massachusetts are trying to turn salmonella bacteria into biological robots to destroy cancer cells in places where chemotherapy drugs cannot reach. They take away bacterial toxicity and load up the microbes with drugs. They are able to swim to the target cancerous cells because of their powerful propellers called flagellae. When they arrive at their destination they venture deep inside tumour cells and release a drug which triggers the cancer cells to kill themselves. Researchers have tried out the technique in mice with cancer and it has improved their survival rates.

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    How is Salmonella Transmitted?

    Salmonella is spread via the fecal-oral route when animals or people pass stools. You can get salmonella food poisoning by consuming food or drink products that have been contaminated with bacteria from the feces of infected people or animals. You can also get salmonella bacteria by handling infected meat or cleaning up animal droppings and then eating with your hands or putting your hands in your mouth without washing them. Salmonella bacteria are not spread by coughing or sneezing.

    The risk of salmonella infections can be lowered by hand washing, especially after visiting the toilet and before handling food, and also by not serving raw eggs or meat. Food should always be well cooked.

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    What Food Do Salmonella Bacteria Eat?

    Salmonella bacteria are chemoorganotrophs and take energy from their environment - from the oxidation and reduction reactions of organic matter. Hydrogen has also been discovered to be an energy source. A study by scientists from the University of Georgia in 2004 reported that salmonella bacteria use three enzymes that split molecular hydrogen to use it for energy and growth.

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    Can Salmonella Cause Illnesses Other than Food Poisoning?

    Yes. Salmonella can also cause other diseases including typhoid fever and paratyphoid fever. The bacteria responsible are Salmonella typhi and/or Salmonella paratyphi.

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    Photo Credit

    Wikimedia Commons