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CDC issues ‘serious public health alert’ over nationwide spike in drug-resistant stomach bug

CDC issues ‘serious public health warning’ about nationwide spike in drug-resistant stomach flu infecting half a million Americans each year

America faces a “serious threat to public health” from a spike in antibiotic-resistant stomach infections, officials have warned.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned in an advisory Friday that it was noticing increasing cases of “superbug” shigellosis.

Naeemah Logan, a CDC medical officer, said this poses a “serious threat to public health and we want to make sure providers are aware of the increasing likelihood of antibiotic failure.”

Officials are detecting resistance to five antibiotics commonly used to treat the infection in more severe cases. It infects about 450,000 people each year, but most cases do not require the medication.

Scientists remain vigilant about antibiotic-resistant bacteria, as they can render commonly used treatments useless. Last month, Massachusetts sounded the alarm after noticing America’s first cases of super gonorrhea.

Cases of antibiotic-resistant shigella are on the rise in US, CDC warned (stock image)

Shigellosis, caused by the bacteria shigella, causes patients to suffer from bloody diarrhea, abdominal pain and fever.

The disease is most common in children under the age of five, but can infect people of any age. The CDC says there’s been a rise in adult cases.

Normally, patients do not need antibiotics to treat the infection – they just need fluids and rest.

But the drugs are offered to people with weakened immune systems due to HIV infection or chemotherapy.

The CDC said it has seen a recent increase in drug-resistant infections, particularly among men who have sex with men, international travelers and people living with HIV or who are homeless.

The infections were resistant to five commonly recommended antibiotics, including azithromycin, ciprofloxacin and ceftriaxone.

Between 2020 and 2022, a total of 237 patients were diagnosed with antibiotic-resistant infections.

They came from 29 states across the country, with the largest numbers in California (76), Colorado (36), and Massachusetts (34).

The CDC says it has scheduled a call with clinicians on Tuesday to inform them of the rise in antibiotic resistance.

Infections normally last five to seven days, officials say.

But in severe cases, the disease can cause problems with bowel movements for months.

What is shigella?

Shigella is an intestinal infection that causes severe diarrhea and stomach cramps.

Among gay and bisexual men, it is believed to be mainly spread through the fecal-oral route during sex, either directly or through unwashed hands, as only a small amount of bacteria is needed to spread the infection.

People can get Shigella by licking skin, condoms, or toys with feces, even if it’s not visible.

Symptoms often develop about one to three days after sex and include frequent diarrhea (sometimes with blood), stomach cramps, fever, and some people report vomiting.

Men experiencing these symptoms should be advised to visit their doctor or a sexual health clinic to get tested.

To reduce the risk, gay and bisexual men are advised to:

  • Wash their hands after sex (and buttocks and penis if they can, by showering), especially if they are fingering or handling used condoms, washing sex toys or shower items;
  • Change condoms between anal and oral sex;
  • Use a rimming barrier (such as a piece of latex);
  • Use latex gloves for fingering or fisting.

Source: UKHSA