A bad bout of food poisoning will knock you off your feet, but a few days later you'll hopefully be back to your old self like nothing ever happened. But new research from Cornell University suggests that certain types of salmonella, one of the main bacterial causes of food poisoning, can have much longer-lasting effects. In some cases it could actually cause permanent damage to your DNA, leaving you more vulnerable to illness in the future.
According to the CDC, salmonella is responsible for about a million cases of food-borne illnesses in the US every year, but it's rarely deadly. Less than 400 of those infected will die from the illness, with the rest usually recovering by themselves in a few days or a week.
At the center of the Cornell study was the salmonella serotype, Typhi, the bug that causes typhoid fever. Typhi produces cytolethal distending toxin (S-CDT), a substance that's known to attack the cells of its host and damage DNA. The researchers examined other strains of salmonella, including common food-poisoners like Javiana, Montevideo, Oranienburg and Mississippi, and found that they also have the potential to express S-CDT.
When the team tested the effects that these S-CDT-producing bacteria have on lab-grown human cells, they found clear signs of DNA damage. While the researchers don't fully know what the run-on effects such damage can have on the body, it could make future food-borne illness episodes last longer.
"Think about possible DNA damage this way: We apply sunscreen to keep the sun from damaging our skin," explains Rachel Miller, author of the study. "If you don't apply sunscreen, you can get a sunburn – and possibly develop skin problems later in life. While not the sun, salmonella bacteria may work in a similar way. The more you expose your body's cells to DNA damage, the more DNA damage that needs to be repaired, and there may one day be a chance that the DNA damage is not correctly repaired. We don't really know right now the true permanent damage from these salmonella infections."
The research was published in the journal mBio.
Source: Cornell University