The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday issued a warning to healthcare providers and public health officials amid a jump in the number of infections caused by antibiotic-resistant strains of the Shigella bacteria.
In a health alert, officials with the CDC said they have seen a rise in “extensively drug-resistant” Shigella infections reported through national surveillance systems. The bacteria cause an estimated 450,000 infections nationwide each year, including 239 between Jan. 1, 2015, and Jan. 22, 2023, that were caused by drug-resistant bacterial strains. Officials warned Friday that the drug-resistant Shigella bacteria can spread antimicrobial resistance to other bacteria found in the intestines.
The bacteria are highly transmissible and cause an infection called shigellosis, characterized by fever, stomach pain and diarrhea that can be bloody or last for more than three days, according to the CDC. Symptoms typically start one or two days after infection and last for seven days. Most infections are mild and clear on their own. However, antibiotics are sometimes prescribed to shorten the duration of the infection or reduce the likelihood of transmission.
Historically, shigellosis has mostly affected children between the ages of 1 and 4, officials said. More recently, the CDC has seen a rise in the number of drug-resistant infections reported in adults, particularly among international travelers, people living with HIV, men who have sex with men and people experiencing homelessness. It takes few Shigella bacteria to cause shigellosis, and outbreaks tend to happen among people who are in close contact with one another.
“Given these potentially serious public health concerns, CDC asks healthcare professionals to be vigilant about suspecting and reporting cases of XDR (extensively drug-resistant) Shigella infection to their local or state health department and educating patients and communities at increased risk about prevention and transmission,” CDC officials said Friday.
Naeemah Logan, a CDC medical officer, told The Washington Post that such “superbug” infections “are a serious public health threat, and we want to ensure that providers are aware of the increasing potential for antibiotics to fail.” The CDC has a call scheduled Tuesday to discuss the rise in shigellosis with clinicians.
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