If you have travelled recently to the Dominican Republic or India, health officials strongly recommend you keep an eye out for the symptoms of a new drug-resistant stomach bug, which is believed to have already caused more than 200 illnesses since May 2014.
Nausea, stomach cramps and diarrhea are all symptoms of the Shigella infections, also known as “Delhi Belly”. The infection has made its way into the U.S., which is not so unusual. It isn’t that uncommon to cause outbreaks either, but what’s different about the most recent one is that the usual antibiotic prescribed as treatment for adults is no longer efficient.
According to the report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday, the superbug has already infected 243 people, spread all over 32 states and Puerto Rico. Antibiotics are sometimes prescribed, especially if the case turns out to be rather serious.
In a recent statement, CDC Director Tom Frieden expressed his concern about the fact that Shigella infections are already establishing a troubling trend in the United States.
It’s not just because Shigella is a drug-resistant infection, which means it is a lot more difficult to treat; it’s also the fact that is has such a quick spread between people, drastically increasing the chances that we will soon face more – and larger – outbreaks.
The CDC is currently working on enforcing a national strategy that will help lower antibiotic resistance because; health officials are worried that common infections might be more difficult to fight as they increase their protection against our drugs.
The genetic code of Shigella was unlocked after studying a sample from a soldier from World War I who suffered and died of dysentery. Experts were surprised to see the results showed a superbug with built-in resistance to penicillin and other antibiotics, even though they weren’t going to be in common use for decades to come.
Last November, Kate Baker of Britain’s Welcome Trust Sanger Institute presented an analysis of different samples of Shigella flexneri from 1915, 1954, 1984 and 2002. Even though the structure of the bacteria had shown little change, its mutations allowed it to acquire more dangerous and persistent features.
What was also troubling is that the analysis showed the bacteria had gone through a “serotype conversion”, a process that allows it to re-infect and cause the disease in people who had already been infected before. Normally, such people are immune to further attacks, but that was not the case for Shigella.
Latest reports tell us Shigella is the lead cause for approximately 500,000 cases of diarrhea in the United States every year.
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