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International travel and the risk of hospitalization with non-typhoidal Salmonella bacteremia. A Danish population-based cohort study, 1999-2008

Kristoffer Koch1*, Brian Kristensen2, Hanne M Holt3, Steen Ethelberg4, Kåre Mølbak4 and Henrik C Schønheyder1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Clinical Microbiology, Aalborg Hospital, Aarhus University Hospital, Aalborg, Denmark

2 Department of Clinical Microbiology, Skejby Hospital, Aarhus University Hospital, Aarhus, Denmark

3 Department of Clinical Microbiology, Odense University Hospital, Odense, Denmark

4 Department of Epidemiology, Statens Serum Institut, Copenhagen, Denmark

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BMC Infectious Diseases 2011, 11:277  doi:10.1186/1471-2334-11-277

Published: 19 October 2011



Information is sparse regarding the association between international travel and hospitalization with non-typhoidal Salmonella bacteremia. The aim of this study was to determine the proportion, risk factors and outcomes of travel-related non-typhoidal Salmonella bacteremia.


We conducted a 10-year population-based cohort study of all patients hospitalized with non-typhoidal Salmonella bacteremia in three Danish counties (population 1.6 million). We used denominator data on Danish travellers to assess the risk per 100,000 travellers according to age and travel destination. We used patients contemporaneously diagnosed with travel-related Salmonella gastroenteritis as reference patients to estimate the relative risk of presenting with travel-related bacteremia as compared with gastroenteritis. To evaluate clinical outcomes, we compared patients with travel-related bacteremia and patients with domestically acquired bacteremia in terms of length of hospital stay, number of extraintestinal focal infections and mortality after 30 and 90 days.


We identified 311 patients hospitalized with non-typhoidal Salmonella bacteremia of whom 76 (24.4%) had a history of international travel. The risk of travel-related bacteremia per traveller was highest in the age groups 15-24 years (0.8/100,000 travellers) and 65 years and above (1.2/100,000 travellers). The sex- and age-adjusted relative risk of presenting with bacteremia was associated with travel to Sub-Saharan Africa (odds ratio 18.4; 95% confidence interval [6.9-49.5]), the Middle East (10.6; [2.1-53.2]) and South East Asia (4.0; [2.2-7.5]). We found high-risk countries in the same three regions when estimating the risk per traveller according to travel destination. Patients hospitalized with travel-related bacteremia had better clinical outcomes than patients with domestically acquired bacteremia, they had a shorter length of hospital stay (8 vs. 11 days), less extraintestinal focal infections (5 vs. 31 patients) and a lower risk of death within both 30 days (relative risk 0.2; [0.1-0.7]) and 90 days (0.3; [0.1-0.7]). A healthy traveller effect was a plausible explanation for the observed differences in outcomes.


International travel is a notable risk factor for being hospitalized with non-typhoidal Salmonella bacteremia and the risk differs between age groups and travel destinations. Healthy travellers hospitalized with bacteremia are less likely to have poor outcomes than patients with domestically acquired bacteremia.