It’s a case of the treatment being worse than the illness.
Shigellosis is an unpleasant intestinal infection that hits around half a million people in the U.S. each year. Its main features are frequent (sometimes bloody) diarrhea, pain, and fever.
So, if it seems far-fetched to you that a pill to treat this nasty bug could be worse that the condition itself… then thank your lucky stars that you haven’t suffered from the side effects of Cipro.
In a just-out report from the CDC, we’re hearing that the Shigella pathogen is showing signs of further antibiotic resistance to the drug. In other words, using Cipro for this infection may likely end up being all risk without a shred of benefit.
Anyone can become infected with Shigella. And while there are some steps you can take to stay safe, should this bug hit you, the last thing you want to do is take a bad situation and make it 1,000 times worse.
Save it for the plague
Magdalene Fuchs was an independent, vibrant 85-year-old. That is, until she was prescribed the antibiotic Cipro.
The Virginia woman started to appear jaundiced a short time after being given the drug, and doctors soon discovered that it had put her into liver failure. She died just three months after taking the pills.
The way her daughter describes it, “Cipro had fried her liver.”
Although Fuchs was given the drug for what was thought to be a bladder infection (more on that in a minute), Cipro is handed out like candy for shigellosis… despite the fact it’s been known for quite a while that the bug is fast becoming resistant to it.
In a recently released CDC health alert, the agency reports that it’s worried about various “resistance mechanisms” to Cipro being found in the pathogen, and it advises doctors to consult with an infectious disease specialist for other antibiotics to use (there are several that can be specifically identified by doing a lab test).
But then there’s this little tidbit from the CDC: Doctors should “consider carefully whether an infection (with Shigella) requires antibiotics at all.” Any antibiotics!
According to experts, most Shigella infections are “self-limited” and will resolve all on their own in two to three days. (Surprisingly, the CDC concurs, stating that the recovery time can be up to a week).
So, why in the world are doctors continuing to dish out the Cipro as if it’s the magic cure-all for shigellosis?
As we’ve been telling you right here in the eAlert, despite the risks involved, Cipro and similar antibiotics (called fluoroquinolones, or FQs) are big-gun, broad-spectrum drugs that are the darlings of far too many doctors. They’re liberally given out for everything under the sun — from sore throats to sinus infections, earaches, and UTIs.
And liver failure, which hit Magdalene Fuchs, is just one on a long list of disastrous side effects these FQ drugs can cause.
In fact, the FDA has known as far back as 2013 that FQs can trigger peripheral neuropathy, a terribly painful type of nerve damage typically felt in the feet that can come on after the very first pill!
But that’s not all.
The FDA is also aware that FQs can trigger tendon ruptures, detached retina, kidney failure, hallucinations, and psychotic behavior. You would think that by now doctors would only use Cipro as a drug of last resort, such as for bubonic plague, which it was approved to treat in 2012.
Unfortunately, however, docs are showing no signs of slowing down the pace in writing prescriptions for these FQ meds, especially for treating Shigella.
As I said, anyone can be hit with this bug. But by taking a few precautions, you can substantially lower your risk.
The pathogen is easily transmitted, with a common source of infection being changing the diaper of a child who’s infected without properly washing up afterwards. Daycare settings have notably been hot spots for Shigella transmission.
Food contaminated by a restaurant worker who’s sick is another easy way to pick up Shigella, a risk you can lower by only ordering hot foods and beverages — both at home and if you’re travelling to other countries.
And that old standby, washing your hands frequently (especially before eating), still remains one of the most effective methods to steer clear of shigellosis and lots of other nasty infections.
As for Cipro, unless it’s being used to treat the plague, it should be avoided like the plague!
“Rise in possible fluoroquinolone-resistant Shigella isolates, CDC warns” Megan Brooks, June 7, 2017, Medscape, medscape.com