Typhoid fever also known as enteric fever, is a potentially fatal multisystemic illness caused primarily by Salmonella enterica, subspecies enterica serovar typhi and, to a lesser extent, related serovars paratyphi A, B, and C.
The protean manifestations of typhoid fever make this disease a true diagnostic challenge. The classic presentation includes fever, malaise, diffuse abdominal pain, and constipation. Untreated, typhoid fever is a grueling illness that may progress to delirium, obtundation, intestinal hemorrhage, bowel perforation, and death within 1 month of onset. Survivors may be left with long-term or permanent neuropsychiatric complications.
S typhi has been a major human pathogen for thousands of years, thriving in conditions of poor sanitation, crowding, and social chaos. It may have responsible for the Great Plague of Athens at the end of the Pelopennesian War. The name S typhi is derived from the ancient Greek typhos, an ethereal smoke or cloud that was believed to cause disease and madness. In the advanced stages of typhoid fever, the patient’s level of consciousness is truly clouded. Although antibiotics have markedly reduced the frequency of typhoid fever in the developed world, it remains endemic in developing countries.
S paratyphi causes the same syndrome but appears to be a relative newcomer. It may be taking over the typhi niche, in part, because of immunological naivete among the population and incomplete coverage by vaccines that target typhi.
Note that some writers refer to the typhoid and paratyphoid fever as distinct syndromes caused by the typhi versus paratyphi serovars, while others use the term typhoid fever for a disease caused by either one. We use the latter terminology. We refer to these serovars collectively as typhoidalsalmonel
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