Alternative Name: Typhoid fever

Typhoid is a bacterial illness, caused by the organism Salmonella Typhi (S.Typhi), which is spread via food and water.

It is common in developing countries. Symptoms include headache, fever, abdominal pain, constipation (initially, followed by diarrhoea), bloody stools, confusion, and rash (rose spots). Treatment involves fluids to treat dehydration and antibiotics to treat infection. Most patients recover, but complications, which are more common in the elderly, the malnourished, and those who are not treated promptly, include intestinal bleeding, intestinal perforation (intestines burst), peritonitis (infection of abdominal cavity, following perforation), and kidney failure.

Symptoms include:

  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Malaise
  • Abdominal pain
  • Constipation (first) followed by diarrhoea
  • Blood in stools
  • Confusion or agitation
  • Rash (rose spots) on lower chest and abdomen

Tests that may be used to confirm the diagnosis include:

  • Blood culture – blood is drawn and the bacteria isolated in a laboratory
  • Stool culture – may be performed but is quite unreliable
  • Antibody blood tests these show antibodies that have been made by the patient, in response to S.Typhi.


Typhi is spread via contaminated food, and water. People ingest the bacteria, which spread and multiply, causing illness.


Fluids are given to treat any dehydration. Severely ill patients will need hospitalisation and intensive medical care.

Antibiotics are given to treat the infection.


The illness generally takes approximately 3 weeks to resolve, with full recovery the norm. Complications, which can be very serious, are more common in the elderly, the malnourished, and those who receive delayed treatment. These complications include:

  • Intestinal bleeding
  • Intestinal perforation (intestine wall bursts)
  • Peritonitis (generalised infection of the abdominal cavity as a result of perforation.
  • Kidney failure

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