Drug-resistant strain of Shigella bacteria prompts US health warnings

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27 February 2023: The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a health advisory alert on Friday about a rise in antibiotic-resistant strain of the Shigella bacteria. Shigellosis is a highly infectious diarrheal illness—nearly half a million people are infected each year in the USA.

The Carlos III Health Institute in Spain reports a doubling in Shigella cases in 2022 compared to 2021, with 203 infections reported up to October 2022 compared to 99 cases in 2021.

Usually people recover without treatment, but immunocompromised people may need antibiotics. Severe Shigellosis can be life threatening. There are few antimicrobial treatment options for patients with the drug-resistant XDR strain of Shigella. In 2022, 5 percent of Shigella infections were caused by the XDR strain in the US.

The CDC has called for healthcare staff to educate communities at most risk of how to prevent the spread of the disease—caught by changing a sick infant’s diaper, hand to mouth bacteria transmission, sexual contact or by contaminated food and water.

Symptoms of shigellosis include diarrhea (often bloody), abdominal pain, stomach cramps, and fever. Sometimes people infected with Shigella have no symptoms at all, but can still pass the bacteria to others.

The increase in antimicrobial-resistant Shigella infections is among men who have sex with men, people experiencing homelessness, international travelers and people living with HIV, the CDC reported.

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