Treatment-Resistant Shigella Cases On the Rise

Anne Spollen
The CDC is warning about an antibiotic-resistant outbreak of ShigellaPhoto byMedical Illustrator: Stephanie Rossow

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is tracking a rise in Shigella, an "extensively drug-resistant" bacterial illness that leaves doctors with few antibiotic options to treat patients. The CDC warns it now poses a "serious public health threat." Shigella can also transmit its resistance genes to other stomach illnesses.

Outbreaks of Shigella occur through contact with contaminated water, food, surfaces, or via sexual contact. Symptoms include fever, diarrhea and a form of dysentery called shigellosis. Rest and hydration are the best methods for treating the illness. Without treatment, severe cases can result in hospitalization and death.

"Given these potentially serious public health concerns, CDC asks healthcare professionals to be vigilant about suspecting and reporting cases of XDR Shigella infection to their local or state health department and educating patients and communities at increased risk about prevention and transmission," the agency said in an alert Friday.

"We typically see Shigella cases peak in the summer months and decline in the fall and winter. However, Shigella activity increased in Fall 2022, and we are now seeing some antibiotic-resistant cases, which are confirmed via antibiotic susceptibility testing," Brian Spencer, a spokesperson for Colorado's Department of Public Health and Environment, said in a statement.

Authorities are not clear what is driving the out-of-season recent rise in Shigella cases. An alert from the agency cites studies from 2012 and 2016 that shows a rise in drug-resistant infections "particularly among people experiencing homelessness, international travelers, immunocompromised people, and MSM," using an acronym for men who have sex with men.

Transmission of Shigella is difficult to control because it spreads rapidly and easily between people.

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Staten Island-based New York City writer following NY's migrant crisis, urban issues, lifestyle topics, human interest, and wellness. Published novelist and essayist.

Staten Island, NY

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