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Why typhoid bites 100 years after its vaccine introduction


The year 1903, April 14 became a significant moment in the world history and it also enriched the history of the world health inventions. 

Nipped from the humble streets of New York, Harry Plotz, a young American bacteriologist penned his name on the history books by coming up with the first vaccine against typhoid fever. Harry is believed to have started working on the invention of the vaccine in 1903 all the way to 1914, where he realised his dream just at 22 years. 

It was a milestone that was going to put a halt to the human suffering and mortalities that would arise from this disease.

But the invention of the vaccine was not going to inspire the end of typhoid fever. With a century having elapsed from the time, typhoid fever has remained to be one of the least dreaded but underrated diseases in Kenya and beyond.

A 2017 report released by World Bank states that the disease kills more than 100, 000 people per year. Women are the most affected followed by children and men. The report indicates that typhoid has been more prevalent among the poor families than their richer counterparts. This may be tied to the fact that families under such economic status cannot access clean water and proper feeding.

Despite the possible mitigation strategies and reliable treatments being in place, many Kenyans have been in silent suffering. A case study that was conducted by Center for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2014 indicated that many Kenyans are still battling the disease. The study defined the urban slums such as Kibera as the pools of death as many cases detected were at their highest prevalence in such areas.

Drug resistance

 As the search for the conclusive formula to successfully manage typhoid in Kenya remains elusive, there comes another twist of difficulty. A research study that was conducted by Samuel Karuiki from the Kenya Medical Research Institute in early 2017 noted that close to 60% of the typhoid cases in Sub-Saharan Africa are linked to drug resistance. 

The findings of this study unearth the complexities that have impeded on the quest to treat typhoid fever. Patients who are treated with antibiotics do not respond or get cured easily- a situation that has compelled the World Health Organization to go back to the drawing board. The latest trend presents a setback to the war that many medical health providers and researchers such as Dr. Harry Plotz were close to winning and putting to rest.

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