New salmonella vaccine has potential to save lives

- Many people say salmonella is one of the most painful things they have ever experienced. This type of food poisoning can be deadly, but a new vaccine on the horizon may be able to one day help prevent the problem.

We met up with Lisa Garcia, one of our FOX 26 Houston Facebook page followers. She unfortunately knows what it feels like to have salmonella.  

"It feels like someone punched you in the gut," explains Garcia, whose infection lasted two weeks. "You can't keep too many calories in, because they come right back out. You get weak."

Many people can't control the pain or dehydration and end up in the hospital. While Lisa says she contracted it from recalled peanut butter, the culprit is most often found in foods like poultry, beef, milk and eggs, but can also be found in vegetables. You can't tell the food is contaminated by looking or smelling as it usually seems normal.

Dr. Ashok Chopra at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston has been trying to develop the salmonella vaccine for more than ten years. He and his team want to find a vaccine that is safe and effective.  Right now, salmonella poisoning is treated with antibiotics, but that can be problematic. 

"Antibiotic resistance is a big problem and it has become resistant to cyclosporine, a new generation of antibiotics," explains Dr. Chopra. "How are we going to deal with bugs that are antibiotic resistant? You need to have a vaccine, so that's what led to my work."

Garcia says she thinks a vaccine would alleviate a lot of health concerns. 

"I think there are so many people with a suppressed immune system that it would be a beneficial thing," says Garcia.

It would hopefully also save lives.

"A lot! If you think about it, at this point, there are about 2 million people in the U.S. alone who get infected with multi-drug resistant pathogens and 23,000 people who die because of infection," says Dr. Chopra. He also says that there are several salmonella vaccines being tested, but so far, they've had too many problems.

Dr. Chopra hopes his research team's new version of the vaccine will be available to the public in a few years.

It's important to make sure your food is fully cooked and keep it at the correct temperature to prevent salmonella. Also, wash your hands and cutting boards, plus keep your kitchen cabinets clean to prevent infection.

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