CDC Cautions on Shigella Bacterial Infections


The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention is warning of an increase in cases of Shigella, a bacterial illness that causes inflammatory diarrhea.

The new strain of the stomach bug, which causes the diarrheal illness shigellosis, is deemed a “severe public health danger” by the CDC.

Shigella, which is highly infectious, spreads when infected fecal matter enters the mouth or the nose, including through sexual activity or because of poor hand-washing after diaper changes, unsanitary food handling or swimming in contaminated water. The infection is typically seen in young children.

The CDC convened a conference call on Tuesday with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the United Kingdom’s Health Security Agency to warn clinicians about the emergence of a strain of the bacterium that is resistant to all commonly prescribed antibiotics.

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“We do not have all the answers today. The agency could make no official recommendations for antibiotic alternatives,” Dr Louise Francois Watkins, a medical officer at the CDC’s National Centre  for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases said on call.

Data shows that the sickness is spreading in especially among homosexual and bisexual males, reportedly through sexual interaction, both in the United States and internationally.

During the CDC meeting, officers from the U.K. health agency reported they had analysed all but four of 185 cases of the infection in Britain since late 2021. Half required antibiotic treatment. The Shigella samples retained susceptibility to four antibiotics: carbapenems, chloramphenicol, fosfomycin and temocillin.

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Eighty-seven percent of the cases were in men presumed to have sex with men.

“Shigella is a really important and serious pathogen. It can cause really severe diarrhea, sometimes bloody diarrhea, cramps and abdominal pain,” Dr Stephanie Cohen, the section director for HIV and STI prevention at the San Francisco Public Health Department said.

Shigellosis normally resolves on its own. In more fragile individuals, however, doctors may give antibiotics to expedite healing or prevent problems.

The infection can cause long-term and serious sickness, with around 6,400 people in the United States requiring hospitalisation each year.

Death from shigellosis is rare, although it is more likely among people who are immunocompromised, such as by untreated HIV or chemotherapy for cancer.

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