What To Know About This New Drug-Resistant Bacterial Illness

Photo: Courtesy of CDC.
As much as we love our bacterial friends, these don't sound like much fun: A new report the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that a drug-resistant bacterial illness is now spreading in the U.S. 

The report, released yesterday, explains that the Shigella sonnei bacteria is to blame. It causes an intestinal infection called shigellosis that comes with vomiting, bloody and/or watery diarrhea, and a fever. According to the CDC's report, we already see about 500,000 cases of diarrhea due to shigella infection in the U.S. every year. Although outbreaks tend to be large and last awhile, individual cases usually resolve on their own.

What's particularly unnerving about the current Shigella strain is that it's apparently resistant to ciprofloxacin. The drug is often the first-line treatment for shigellosis, thanks to the bacteria's resistance to other antibiotics. In the past, outbreaks have been traced back to international travelers, but the CDC says the current outbreak is now "circulating domestically" on its own.

So far, this outbreak consists of 243 cases identified in 32 states and Puerto Rico. The most cases have been reported in Massachusetts, California, and Pennsylvania. Public health officials also identified 95 cases among the homeless population in San Francisco.

This comes on the heels of another antibiotic-resistant outbreak, and the CDC explained that it is part of a growing problem in the U.S. Patients taking antibiotics for mild versions of the illness, or not finishing the full course of their prescription, could be exacerbating the problem, so the report advises doctors to avoid prescribing ciprofloxacin for mild cases. It instructs the rest of us to continue our rigorous hand-washing rituals. Sounds like a plan.

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