Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Infectious diseases, Part 17: Salmonellosis (or salmonella) (Sp. salmonelosis or salmonela)

[This entry comes from a section of Chapter 34, "Words about infectious diseases", of Part II of the open-source textbook Spanish-English Cognates: An Unconventional Introduction to Spanish Linguistics.]


The word salmonella [ˌsæl.mə.ˈnɛl.ə] refers to ‘a type of bacteria that exists in several forms, some of which live in food and make the people who eat it ill’, as well as to ‘the illness caused by this bacteria’ (CALD). The genus itself is referred to as salmonella, as well as the two species and several subspecies of this bacterium. The genus belongs to the family of Enterobacteriaceae.

The bacterium was named after Daniel Elmer Salmon (1850-1914), a veterinary pathologist that was in charge of the Veterinary Division of the United States Department of Agriculture in the 1880’s where a particular variant of this bacterium was discovered. The name Salmonella for the bacterium was suggested by Joseph Leon Lignières around the year 1900 and it stuck. As for the ending, ‑ella, this is a feminine diminutive suffix in Latin (masc. ‑ellus) and still is in Italian (e.g. mozzarella, diminutive of mozza, a type of cheese), a cognate of the Spanish diminutive suffix ‑illa (masc.: ‑illo, cf. Part I, Chapter 5, §5.3). The suffix ‑ella is used in biology to create New Latin taxonomic names, especially genus names of bacteria, such as Pasteurella, Legionella, and Salmonella.

Spanish adopted the exact same name for the bacterium, borrowed from English or, rather, from the New Latin word Salmonella. Some dictionaries spell it with two l’s, just as in the Latin and English words, such as the María Moliner and VOX dictionaries, although the word is supposed to be pronounced as if it had only one l, just like its English counterpart: [sal.mo.ˈne.la]. According to the Academia’s DLE dictionary, however, the Spanish word is spelled salmonela, with only one l.

The popular name for the disease caused by the Salmonella bacterium is also salmonella, just like the name for the bacterium genus. Actually, this would seem to be a shortened form of the phrase salmonella poisoning. The technical term for the illness, however, is salmonellosis. The Spanish equivalent names are salmonelosis (with one l) and intoxicación por salmonella. This word is formed with the suffix ‑osis, which as we have already seen, is used in medical terminology to denote a state of disease. The Latin suffix ‑ōsis comes from Ancient Greek ‑ωσις (-ōsis) ‘state, abnormal condition, or action’. The ‑ō‑ part comes from Greek ‑όω (-óō) stem verbs to which the suffix ‑σις (-sis) was added that derived nouns denoting action, process, state, condition.

The salmonella infection manifests itself with diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramps, and vomiting after a 12-36 hour incubation period and the symptoms may last 4-7 days. Salmonellosis is one of the most common causes of diarrhea worldwide and it is caused by ingestion of contaminated food or water. The foods most likely to be contaminated are eggs, poultry (19%), beef and pork meat (14%), unpasteurized milk or juice, cheese, and raw fruits and vegetables exposed to contaminated manure. Most people recover without treatment. If the bacteria enter the lymphatic system, then the toxins of the bacterium attack the vascular and nervous system, which may result in toxic shock and death. Such systemic salmonellosis results in typhoid fever and is thus also known as typhoidal salmonellosis, which contrasts with the other, non-typhoidal one. Typhoidal salmonellosis is rare in the United States. It has been estimated that in the United States there are 1.2 million cases of salmonellosis a year, involving some 20,000 hospitalizations, and close to 500 deaths.

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