The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a “serious public health alert,” warning of a nationwide spike in “extensively drug-resistant” shigellosis.
The highly contagious bacterial infection attacks the intestines and causes inflammatory, sometimes bloody diarrhea, according to the CDC’s “emergency and preparedness response.”
There are about 450,000 shigellosis infections every year in the US, resulting in an estimated $93 million in direct medical costs, according to CDC data. The agency also reported that 5% of all infections in 2022 were extensively drug-resistant (XDR) — a jump from zero drug-resistant cases in 2015.
An infection is considered XDR when it doesn’t respond to antibiotics that are typically used to treat it, such as azithromycin, ciprofloxacin and ceftriaxone, among others.
“XDR shigellosis is resistant to all generally recommended antibiotics in the United States, making it difficult to treat,” according to the new report. XDR shigellosis is a serious public health threat: XDR Shigella bacteria have limited antimicrobial treatment options, are easily transmissible, and can spread antimicrobial resistance genes to other enteric bacteria.
Healthcare providers “should understand the nuances of testing and managing infections, especially when treating patients from populations at increased risk of drug-resistant shigellosis including: young children; gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men; people experiencing homelessness; international travelers; and people living with HIV.”
Children younger than 5 years old — as well as those in daycare and educational settings — and travelers to places “where water and food may be unsafe and sanitation is poor” are at additional risk of contracting a shigellosis infection.
Medical professionals treating XDR shigellosis “should consult with a specialist knowledgeable in treating antibiotic-resistant bacteria to determine the best treatment options,” the CDC wrote in its statement.
This latest infection strain arrives as more mainstream stomach “bugs” are spreading across the US. Also known as the stomach flu (though unrelated to influenza), the highly contagious gastrointestinal illness is typically caused by norovirus infection, prompting days of vomiting, diarrhea and fever in children and adults — which could even lead to death if not properly treated.
The Midwest is experiencing the most severe impact this norovirus season with a testing positivity rate of 19.48% as of Feb. 4 — already surpassing last year’s high of 16.12%, recorded late in the season, on April 2, 2022.
— With Post wires