According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an intestinal illness carried by international travelers is spreading throughout the US. The bacteria is believed to be resistant to the antibiotic Cipro, a commonly prescription to treat the infection.
The bug Shigella, has infected 243 persons in 32 states and Puerto Rico, between May and February, CDC said in a statement today, with the largest clusters reported in California, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.
CDC Director Tom Frieden said in the statement, “These outbreaks show a troubling trend in Shigella infections in the United States. Drug-resistant infections are harder to treat and because Shigella spreads so easily between people, the potential for more—and larger—outbreaks is a real concern.”
President Barack Obama, last week, unveiled a national action plan to counter antibiotic resistance, a mounting public health issue. He designated $1.2 billion, in his most recent budget, to battle drug-resistant bacteria. Superbugs cause 2 million illnesses and 23,000 deaths each year in the U.S., the CDC says.
According to the CDC Shigella infections are not normally fatal. Only a quarter of the cases in the most recent outbreaks were hospitalized, with no reported deaths. Shigella causes about 500,000 illnesses, 5,500 hospitalizations, and 40 deaths in the U.S., annually, according to the White House’s National Strategy for Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria. Whereas these strains are principally resistant to Cipro, most are still vulnerable to at least one oral antibiotic, the CDC said.
Shigella infections are more often self-clearing, though doctors habitually prescribe antibiotics for mild illnesses, the CDC said.
Physicians usually prescribe Cipro to global travelers, in case they develop diarrhea outside the U.S. More study is needed to determine whether that had influenced the most recent outbreaks.