Shigella Infection (cont.)
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What sort of germ is Shigella?
The Shigella germ is actually a family of bacteria that can cause diarrhea in humans. They are microscopic living creatures that pass from person to person. Shigella were discovered over 100 years ago by a Japanese scientist named Shiga, for whom they are named. There are several different kinds of Shigella bacteria: Shigella sonnei, also known as "Group D" Shigella, accounts for over two-thirds of shigellosis in the United States. Shigella flexneri, or "group B" Shigella, accounts for almost all the rest. Other types of Shigella are rare in this country, though they continue to be important causes of disease in the developing world. One type found in the developing world, Shigella dysenteriae type 1, can cause deadly epidemics.
How can Shigella infections be diagnosed?
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Many different kinds of germs can cause diarrhea, so establishing the cause will help guide treatment. Determining that Shigella is the cause of the illness depends on laboratory tests that identify Shigella in the stools of an infected person. The laboratory can also do special tests to determine which antibiotics, if any, would be best to treat the infection.
How can Shigella infections be treated?
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Persons with mild infections usually recover quickly without antibiotic treatment. However, appropriate antibiotic treatment kills Shigella bacteria, and may shorten the illness by a few days. The antibiotics commonly used for treatment are ampicillin, trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole (also known as Bactrim* or Septra*), ceftriaxone (Rocephin*), or, among adults, ciprofloxacin. Some Shigella bacteria have become resistant to antibiotics. This means some antibiotics might not be effective for treatment. Using antibiotics to treat shigellosis can sometimes make the germs more resistant. Therefore, when many persons in a community are affected by shigellosis, antibiotics are sometimes used to treat only the most severe cases. Antidiarrheal agents such as loperamide (Imodium*) or diphenoxylate with atropine (Lomotil*) can make the illness worse and should be avoided.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/18/2014
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