Media advisory: Vaccine expert available to discuss spread of drug-resistant Shigella in U.S.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

LAWRENCE — An antibiotic-resistant strain of Shigella sonnei bacteria has sickened 243 people in the U.S. between May 2014 and February 2015, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC said, “Nearly 90 percent of the cases tested were resistant to ciprofloxacin (Cipro), the first choice to treat shigellosis among adults in the United States. Shigellosis can spread very quickly in groups like children in child care facilities, homeless people and gay and bisexual men, as occurred in these outbreaks.”

Vaccine researcher Wendy Picking at the University of Kansas School of Pharmacy can discuss the current outbreak as well as efforts to develop a vaccine against the Shigella family of pathogens. The researcher and professor of pharmaceutical chemistry has studied Shigella for more than 20 years and is now in the process of bringing a Shigella vaccine to a clinical trial.

Together with her husband, Bill, Wendy Picking leads the Kansas Vaccine Institute.

“Shigella sonnei and those of the Shigella family are devastating pathogens in low-income countries where they are responsible for 9 million cases of illness and more than 100,000 deaths, most of which are in children from ages 2 to 5,” Picking said. “This family is also of great concern to the military, which sends our troops into these regions. Unlike other diarrhea-causing bacteria or viruses, the disease caused by Shigella, shigellosis, is very severe with cramps, fever and bloody, mucous-filled scant stools. While your body can cure itself with time, it’s a very painful process that occurs over seven to 10 days and can cause long-lasting damage to the lower intestine and colon.”

Picking said overuse of antibiotics could be a reason the current shigellosis outbreak resists treatment with Cipro. According to the CDC, most Shigella bacteria in the U.S. already are resistant to the antibiotics ampicillin and trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole.

“Because only 10 to 100 bacteria are needed to cause dysentery, it is very easily spread once within a family or region,” Picking said. “Like other bacteria, it’s disheartening that Shigella is now resistant to Cipro. I hope the increase in reported infections in the U.S. isn’t a sign of the things to come in the near and not-so-near future. We should all be concerned about the increase in antibiotic resistance. We should not ask for them for a mere cold, and we should take them all.”

 To schedule and interview with Wendy Picking, contact Brendan M. Lynch at blynch@ku.edu or 785-864-8855.


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