The study focused on salmonella food poisoning in particular, and found that certain serotypes (variations of the bacterial species) can permanently damage DNA, leaving victims more vulnerable to future illnesses, Cornell Chronicle reported.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, salmonella causes one million foodborne illnesses in the country every year.
Among over 2,500 types of salmonella present, researchers looked into Typhi, a serotype that causes Typhoid fever. This serotype was found to produce cytolethal distending toxin (S-CDT), which attacks cells and damages DNA.
Researchers also found that other salmonella serotypes such as Javiana, Montevideo, Oranienburg, and Mississipp, also carry the genetic material to express S-CDT.
Rachel Miller, lead author of the study, used a sunscreen analogy to describe the potential harm S-CDT could do:
"Think about possible DNA damage this way: We apply sunscreen to keep the sun from damaging our skin," Miller said.
"If you don't apply sunscreen, you can get a sunburn — and possibly develop skin problems later in life. While not the sun, salmonella bacteria may work in a similar way. The more you expose your body's cells to DNA damage, the more DNA damage that needs to be repaired, and there may one day be a chance that the DNA damage is not correctly repaired. We don't really know right now the true permanent damage from these salmonella infections."