A new report says that a drug resistant strain of shigella has been brought into the United States by travelers over the last few months.
There are multiple types of shigella bacteria. Shigella sonnei is the most common type, and a new strain has surfaced that is becoming increasingly resistant to all types of antibiotics generally used to counteract shigella infection.
As of a 2013 report, roughly 27,000 cases of shigella were found to be resistant to at least one type of antibiotic used to treat it. That number has likely and may continue to increase as strains become more resistant. The more recent CDC report says that from May 2014 to Feburary 2015 a drug resistant version of shigella sonnei infected 243 people in 32 states and Puerto Rico.
Shigella is sometimes referred to as “traveler’s diarrhea,” because those who pick up an infection do so abroad, from contaminated water or food in less developed countries.
Shigella infection causes shigellosis, causing dirrahea, possible fever and abdominal pain. While the symptoms are treatable and generally don’t have complications, there is a concern that due to increased resistance, and the ease at which it can spread, that there is a chance for a more widespread outbreaks of shigella in the future.
A real concern is the trend of viruses and microbes becoming more resistant to conventional methods of treatment in the form of antibiotics. Antibiotics can have adverse effects on health and can compromise the immune system, and sometimes infections are treated by overuse of antibiotics. This however can also lead to the microbe becoming even more drug resistant, and can increase the risk of infection long term if it spreads.
The report urges individuals at home and those who travel abroad to be careful about what they eat and drink, and to improve their hygiene by frequently washing hands and limiting their possible exposure to those who have diarrhea symptoms.
Additionally it raises concerns about how we look at infectious diseases as a whole. If these viruses become more and more drug resistant, how do you deal with them? Using antibiotics may even become more harmful if they have no effect on the infection, because they may compromise the immune system even more. So making sure one’s immune system is already prepared to deal with infectious disease may become even more important than before.