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Salmonella (non-typhoidal)





Introduction to bacteria
Gram positive bacteria
Gram negative bacteria
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Content Reviewers:

Viviana Popa, MD

Salmonella is a bacterium belonging to the family Enterobacteriaceae.

There are two main species: Salmonella bongori and Salmonella enterica, and the latter has six subspecies.

One of the subspecies is enterica, which has over 2500 serotypes that can be divided into two main groups based on the clinical symptoms they cause- so typhoidal or non-typhoidal Salmonella.

The non-typhoidal group, can infect humans and animals and cause a variety of disease states.

But, the most common serotype, Salmonella enteritidis, causes intestinal inflammation, called gastroenteritis, or commonly called “food poisoning”.

OK, but generally, Salmonella are encapsulated gram-negative, rod bacteria – meaning, they have a polysaccharide layer outside the cell envelope and look like little red or pink sticks on a gram stain.

They’re facultative intracellular pathogens, meaning they can live both outside or inside of its host’s cells.

And have flagella, making them motile, but don’t form spores.

They’re also facultative anaerobes, so they can undergo respiratory and fermentative metabolism; and they can ferment glucose but not lactose; are oxidase negative, and produce hydrogen sulfide gas.

And while a variety of media can be used to selectively identify Salmonella, among them is Triple Sugar Iron agar which produces a black precipitate when hydrogen sulfide is produced.

Now, once Salmonella is ingested and reaches the distal ileum of the small intestine, it tends to target the epithelial layer of the mucosal lining where it uses surface appendages to adhere to microfold cells, or M-cells.

And these M-cells eat, or phagocytose, the bacteria from the intestinal lumen and spit it out into the underlying Peyer’s patches - a type of mucosal immune tissue that extends into the submucosa.

When encountering non-typhoidal Salmonella, the immune system responds strongly by releasing proinflammatory cytokines that recruit additional immune cells, particularly neutrophils.

This causes inflammation of the small intestines and the colon, called enterocolitis.

Responding immune cells can also damage the mucosa as they travel to the site of infection.

This can cause ulcers; and gastrointestinal tract dysfunction that leads to an efflux of water and electrolytes into the intestinal lumen, which causes diarrhea.

Now, usually, the infection is uncomplicated and limited to the mucosa, where it’s often destroyed by the local immune cells.

But, in some cases, the infection can become invasive, gaining access to nearby blood vessels, causing bacteremia.

From the bloodstream, the bacteria can spread to other organs like the brain, bones, liver, or spleen.

Now, reservoirs for non-typhoidal Salmonella include infected humans and animals, particularly birds, reptiles, mammals, and amphibians.

So, transmission can be fecal-to-oral and foodborne through consumption of contaminated raw or undercooked animal products; especially poultry, meat, and eggs, or unpasteurized milk or milk-products.


Salmonella is a rod-shaped, gram-negative bacteria of the Enterobacteriaceae family, which is known to cause salmonellosis infection. Non-typhoidal Salmonella (NTS) infections are the most common type of salmonellosis and are caused by several different strains of the bacteria like S. Enteritidis, and S. Newport. NTS infections are foodborne diseases and primarily spread through contaminated food and water. They cause symptoms of food poisoning like fever, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, vomiting, and headache. These symptoms can be severe and may lead to dehydration, sepsis, or even death.