Confirmed cases of shigella have been on the rise among gay and bisexual men in the United Kingdom, according to reports from Public Health England (PHE).
Shigella is a highly drug-resistant strain of a bacterial gut infection that can be contracted during sexual activity, and symptoms are often mistaken for food poisoning.
The main symptoms typically include diarrhea lasting longer than a week despite treatment with antibiotics. Although resistant to several antibiotics, shigella remains susceptible to other drugs including chloramphenicol, ertapenem, temocillin, mecillinam and fosfomycin.
According to NAM AIDS Map, "The risk of sexual transmission can be reduced by avoiding oral-fecal contact and by washing hands and showering after sex. Using protection for fingering, rimming and fisting, including gloves and changing condoms between anal and oral sex also help reduce the risk of transmission."
PHE hasn't assessed all the information about the risk factors associated with contracting the drug-resistant strain.
However, several behavioral characteristics were associated with a serious outbreak of Shigella among MSM in the UK in 2014, which include high numbers of sexual partners met online or at sex parties; chemsex, especially the use of mephedrone, methamphetamine, ketamine and GBL; and injection drug use.
A person can also pick up the gut infection from licking skin, condoms, or toys that may have fecal matter on it. It spreads very easily and a person with shigella is easily transmittable for up to one month, according to the NHS.
Shigella can result in death as it did for a British couple in Egypt last summer.
Over 2,300 laboratory-confirmed cases of shigella were reported in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland in 2014 compared to 1,991 cases the previous year. At least 20 percent of cases were related to travel.