News / Africa

New Dysentery Threat Emerges

Shigella Sonsei bacterium (photo by David Goulding, Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute)Shigella Sonsei bacterium (photo by David Goulding, Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute)
x
Shigella Sonsei bacterium (photo by David Goulding, Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute)
Shigella Sonsei bacterium (photo by David Goulding, Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute)

Multimedia

Audio
Joe DeCapua
It’s known that clean water and sanitation can bring a sharp decline in dysentery cases in developing countries. But it’s not enough to stop the spread of the disease in countries undergoing rapid development and industrialization.



Dysentery, a diarrheal disease, is primarily associated with developing countries where it kills more than one million people a year. Most of them are young children. The bacterium that generally causes this type of dysentery is known as Shigella flexneri. As nations improve sanitation and provide clean drinking water, the germ affects fewer people.

“For most it’s severe watery, and it’s characterized or differentiated from a more mild disease by blood spots. You get blood spots in the diarrhea,” said Professor Nicholas Thompson of Britain’s Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and lead author of the new dysentery study.

The severity of dysentery can vary.

“If we are well fed and if we are relatively healthy, then it’s a very acute infection. It’s something that we wouldn’t want to get again. But generally, because we have access to clean water and medicines, we recover and we recover perfectly fine. The problem is in countries where perhaps - especially the under fives - there’s a lack of proper nutrition and a lack of access to clean water, then it has much more severe implications,” he said.

Thompson said clean water and sanitation are the most effective ways of treating all diarrheal diseases. But there’s another bacterium that causes dysentery – Shigella sonnei. And it’s spreading despite improvements in water and sanitation.

“[In] industrialized countries or industrializing countries where there are improvements in both sanitation and water, you have a reduction in Shigella flexneri. So that’s one of the bacteria that causes bacterial dysentery. But you get an increase in Shigella sonnei. That’s the species or the type of Shigella that we’ve studied. And we think, and other people think as well, that this is associated actually with improvements in water quality,” he said.

That begs the question why? Why would Shigella sonnei affect more people if the water’s cleaner? It’s because cleaning up drinking water also gets rid of a harmless common bacterium called Plesiomonas Shigelloides. To the immune system, the outer coat of that bacterium looks identical to Shigella sonnei, and antibodies are created to fight it. So its presence helps create somewhat of a natural immunity against the dysentery bacterium. And without that, in countries where overall health is poor, a tougher strain of dysentery can spread and is spreading.

Thompson said, “Luckily there are still alternative antibiotics, and certainly antibiotics in combination can be used against Shigella sonnei. What we’re saying and what we’re showing is that there is an increasing trend of this particular bacterium towards acquiring genes that make them increasingly resistant to drugs used in therapy. If this trend continues, there will come a time when none of the antibiotics that are available to us will work on this bacterium.”

He added that a vaccine will eventually be needed. Research is currently underway. He says the fact that the bacterium has a stable outer coat could help scientists develop a vaccine more quickly. It’s believed Shigella sonnei first emerged in Europe about 500 years ago. Contamination often occurs from not washing hands and through contaminated water.

You May Like

Israelis Quietly Expand Enclave in Palestinian District of Jerusalem

Estimated 500 settlers, armed or protected by paramilitary police, live in Silwan among 50,000 Palestinians More

Video US, Iran Face Similar Challenges in Syrian Fight Against IS

Both Washington, Tehran back fighters battling Islamic State militants in Iraq -- but in Syria they support opposing sides in country’s civil war More

China Boosts Efforts to Help Afghan, Regional Stability

Observers say China’s increased regional involvement are due to concerns that Afghan instability and the presence of anti-China militants in Pakistani border areas could fuel Xinjiang troubles More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Lawi
X
William Ide
October 20, 2014 10:23 AM
China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Nigeria Agrees to Cease-Fire With Boko Haram

Islamist militant group Boko Haram and the Nigerian government have agreed to a cease-fire. The Nigerian government issued an order Friday, telling all military chiefs "to comply with the cease-fire agreement in all theaters of operations. Why now and the significance of the agreement are questions on some people’s minds. VOA's Mariama Diallo reports.
Video

Video Kobani Fighting Sends 400,000 Refugees to Turkey

The offensive by Islamic State militants against the northern Syrian city of Kobani has caused hundreds of thousands of residents to flee to Turkey. They receive help from Turkish authorities and individuals, but say much more is needed. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from the town of Suruc a few kilometers from the border.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Syrian Defector Leaks Shocking Photos of Torture Victims

Shocking photographs purporting to show Syrian torture victims are on display at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. The museum says the graphic images are among thousands of photographs recently smuggled out of Syria by a military policeman-turned-defector. As VOA reporter Julie Taboh reports, the museum says the photos provide further evidence of atrocities committed by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against its own people.
Video

Video Drought-Stricken California Considers Upgrading Water System

A three-year drought in California is causing a water shortage that is being felt on farms and cities throughout the state. As VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports, water experts, consumers and farmers say California needs to make changes to cope with an uncertain future.
Video

Video TechShop Puts High-tech Dreams Within Reach

Square, a business app and card reader, makes it possible to do credit card transactions through cell phones. But what made Square possible? VOA’s Adrianna Zhang and Enming Liu have the answer.

All About America

AppleAndroid