Can Typhoid Fever Be Cured?

  • Medical Author:
    Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP

    Dr. Balentine received his undergraduate degree from McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland. He attended medical school at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine graduating in1983. He completed his internship at St. Joseph's Hospital in Philadelphia and his Emergency Medicine residency at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center in the Bronx, where he served as chief resident.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Ask the experts

I've read a lot about how typhoid outbreaks have been reported over the past month, and I live next to where one was reported. I'm worried I might have been exposed to the typhoid bacteria, given I have other health issues that have me in and out of hospitals. Can typhoid fever be cured?

Doctor’s response

Yes, typhoid is dangerous, but curable.

Typhoid fever is treated with antibiotics that kill the Salmonella bacteria. Prior to the use of antibiotics, the fatality rate was 20%. Death occurred from overwhelming infection, pneumonia, intestinal bleeding, or intestinal perforation. With antibiotics and supportive care, mortality has been reduced to 1%-2%. With appropriate antibiotic therapy, there is usually improvement within one to two days and recovery within seven to 10 days.

Several antibiotics are effective for the treatment of typhoid fever. Chloramphenicol was the original drug of choice for many years. Because of rare serious side effects, chloramphenicol has been replaced by other effective antibiotics. The choice of antibiotics needs to be guided by identifying the geographic region where the organism was acquired and the results of cultures once available. (Certain strains from South America show a significant resistance to some antibiotics.) Ciprofloxacin (Cipro) is the most frequently used drug in the U.S. for nonpregnant patients. Ceftriaxone (Rocephin), an intramuscular injection medication, is an alternative for pregnant patients. Ampicillin (Omnipen, Polycillin, Principen) and trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole (Bactrim, Septra) are frequently prescribed antibiotics although resistance has been reported in recent years.

Multi-drug resistance has been reported, and cultures are used to guide treatment. If relapses occur, patients are retreated with antibiotics.

The carrier state, which occurs in 3%-5% of those infected, can be treated with prolonged antibiotics. Often, removal of the gallbladder, the site of chronic infection, will cure the carrier state.

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REFERENCE:

United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Typhoid Fever." July 18, 2016. <https://www.cdc.gov/typhoid-fever/index.html>.

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Reviewed on 9/21/2018