Somewhere, Over the Rainbow….

Somewhere, Over the Rainbow….

Australian researchers are sounding the alarm over cases of a highly infectious intestinal illness that appear to be resistant to all forms of standard oral antibiotic treatment.

The disease is called shigellosis, a form of dysentery. So far, most cases have involved gay and bisexual men in the Australian state of Victoria, the researchers said.

"Shigellosis is an acute diarrheal disease," explained study lead author Dr. Deborah Williamson, who directs microbiology at Royal Melbourne Hospital in Melbourne. Caused by a bacteria that infects the intestines, it's thought to cause roughly 190 million cases of diarrhoea around the world each year.

In less-developed countries with poor sanitation, children are often the most vulnerable to shigellosis, as the infection is typically spread through tainted food and water. It's much less of a threat in wealthier nations, where it is instead typically spread by close sexual contact, particularly among gay and bisexual men.

Prior to 2018 Australia had seen just a handful of cases. But since 2018, Williamson's team has identified more than 170, mainly among gay men.

Since 2018, "we identified the emergence of a strain of Shigella that is resistant to all oral antibiotics," said Williamson, who also serves as the deputy director of the Microbiological Diagnostic Unit at Melbourne's Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity.

Genetic testing traced the Australian strain to one previously linked to travel in India.