by Dr. Sherri Tenpenny, AOBNMM, ABIHM
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been seeing a lot of patients in the office with the ‘stomach flu.’ The symptoms started out as abdominal pain, then nausea, then a few days of crampy diarrhea. I didn’t think too much about it until I heard that this ‘flu’ bug could be caused by a rogue strain of shigella.
According to the CDC, shigella causes about 500,000 cases of diarrhea in the United States annually. Shigella is quite contagious; exposure to contaminated fecal matter is the most common way it spreads. There are four different species of Shigella:
- Shigella flexneri
- Shigella boydii
- Shigella dysenteriae and
- Shigella sonnei, the most common species in the United States.
In 2013, the CDC reported that Shigella sonnei species were becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics, such as ampicillin, Bactrim and Cipro, with about 27,000 Shigella infections each year attributed to a resistant strain.
This week, ABC News ran a story about the increase in shigella infections. The CDC blames the outbreaks on a “mutant form” of the bacteria coming into U.S. by ill travelers, mostly from the Dominican Republic and India, then spreading to others once home.
Which made me wonder: With more than 300 vaccines in the pipeline, was a vaccine for Shigellosis in the pipeline? Sure enough. There are clinical trials going on right now for two different live, attenuated oral Shigella vaccines. The anticipated date for final data collection and analysis for at least one of them is June, 2015.
This isn’t the first time a news story was pushed out to indirectly introduce a new vaccine. Between March and December in 2013, seven students were diagnosed with meningitis at Princeton. University officials offered a new vaccine, Bexsero for serotype B, which had not been approved for use in the USA. The CDC reported that the Princeton outbreak was the “first in the world“ since the vaccine had been approved for use in Europe.
I wrote an extensive blog, cautioning the push to use Bexsero, hoping to warn parents about the problems associated with this vaccine.
And now, we’re blaming tourists for spreading a drug-resistant pathogen. Digging deeper, CDC documents state that Shigella sonnei infections have been the the most common form of shigella infection since 1970. And the incidence of Shigella infections hasn’t changed appreciably over the past 10 years. In fact, the incidence rate of Shigella sonnei infections decreased from 2008 through 2011, but there was an unexplained increase in 2012 among children aged 0 to 9.
Another live virus vaccine headed towards the pediatric schedule.
Next time a story like this breaks? Keep your eyes and ears open. Pull back the curtain and see what pharma has coming your way.