A new study conducted by scientists from the University of California Davis School of Medicine reveals that people living with HIV are more at risk for lethal Salmonella infection than HIV-negative people, ScienceDaily reports (sciencedaily.com, 3/24).

The study, published online by Nature Medicine on March 23, showed that Salmonella usually causes just seven days of diarrhea in most people, limiting its range of infection to the intestine. However, the food-borne bacterium can spread to the bloodstream and other organs in those living with HIV, causing a fatal condition called non-typhoidal Salmonella serotypes (NTS) bacteremia.

According to scientists, the discovery of the defect in the immune response that allows Salmonella to cross the mucosal barrier of the gut, enter the bloodstream and infect other organs may lead to further research examining how reservoirs of HIV are maintained in the gut, and how the virus is able to evade antiretroviral treatments.

“We think the real battle between an individual’s immune system and HIV is happening in the gut mucosa where there is massive destruction of immune cells,” said Satya Dandekar, professor and chair of the department of medical microbiology and immunology at UC Davis. “Gut-associated lymphoid tissue,” she pointed out, “accounts for 70 percent of the body’s immune system.”

For more information, including tips on how to avoid food poisoning, read our special report: Steer Clear of Salmonella