Extensively drug-resistant Shigella infections are increasing. Here’s what you need to know.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a recent warning about increasing rates of extensively drug-resistant shigellosis, a gut disease caused by Shigella bacteria. Shigellosis is rarely life-threatening and most people do not need treatment. But the increase in extensively drug-resistant strains is worrisome because it leaves fewer treatment options for those who need one.  

In 2015, there were no reports to the CDC of extensively drug-resistant shigellosis. But by 2022, 5% of all shigellosis cases were extensively drug-resistant. While this may not sound like a huge increase, with global travel connecting more people, public health officials are concerned about its potential to spread.

Extensively drug-resistant shigellosis is not curbed by three different classes of common antibiotics — macrolide, quinolone and cephalosporins — and it does not respond to common antibiotic alternatives. Researchers are in the process of developing effective treatments. Antibiotics from the carbapenem class may be useful, according to Emerging Pathogens Institute Director J. Glenn Morris, Jr., M.D.

To learn more, we spoke with Anthony Maurelli, Ph.D., a professor and associate chair in the Department of Environmental and Global Health at the UF College of Public Health and Health Professions. Also a scientist at the EPI, Maurelli is a research expert in disease-causing bacteria, including Shigella.

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Natalie van Hoose March 20, 2023