Shigella: A Look At The Drug-Resistant Bacteria Spreading In The U.S.

·Deputy Editor
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Shigella causes a condition called shigellosis, which is marked by bloody diarrhea, fever, and abdominal pain. (Photo: CDC)

A diarrhea-causing bug is spreading across the U.S. — and it also happens to be resistant to multiple antibiotics.

There have been 243 people sickened by the Shigella sonnei bacteria in 32 states and Puerto Rico from May 2014 to February 2015, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Health officials say the bacteria is being spread by people who traveled outside the U.S., and then came back, thereby infecting other people who hadn’t ever left the country. 

Ninety percent of Shigella bacteria tested by the CDC is resistant to ciprofloxacin (common known as Cipro), which is usually the first choice in treating infection with Shigella. Most Shigella is also resistant to ampicillin and trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole antibiotics. 

“The increase in drug-resistant Shigella makes it even more critical to prevent shigellosis from spreading,” says lead author of the report Anna Bowen, MD, MPH, a medical officer in CDC’s Waterborne Diseases Prevention Branch, in a statement. “Washing your hands with soap and water is important for everyone. Also, international travelers can protect themselves by choosing hot foods and drinking only from sealed containers.”

There are an estimated 500,000 cases of diarrhea-caused by Shigella in the U.S. each year, according to the CDC. It’s spread via contaminated food and water. While people usually recover from diarrhea without treatment, antibiotics are often used to speed recovery. 

Shigella infection is most common in children ages 2 to 4, according to the Mayo Clinic. The CDC report noted that the current outbreak spread quickly particularly among children in childcare facilities, homeless people, and gay and bisexual men. 

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