The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the White House have been sounding the alarm about the rise of antibiotic-resistant superbugs in the past year. Good timing: There's now a drug-resistant mutant stomach bug that's been causing "traveler's diarrhea" in the U.S. and wreaking havoc on people's stomachs, causing cramps, diarrhea and nausea, reports NBC News.
Shigella sonnei is one of the germs that causes shigellosis, known familiarly as Montezuma's revenge, and can spread when someone gets the bacteria on their hands and touches their mouth or nose. Although Shigella causes about 500,000 cases of diarrhea in the U.S. every year, according to the CDC, most cases go away on their own. But for people with suppressed immune systems -- like those who have HIV or cancer -- they can be deadly, which is why having a treatment plan is imperative.
Last year, CDC epidemiologists and local health officials tested cases in Massachusetts, California and Pennsylvania, NBC reported, and 2 percent of patients with shigellosis were Cipro-resistant. In the past year, nearly 90 percent of the patients were infected with bacteria resistant to Cipro, or ciproflaxacin, which is usually the go-to antibiotic to treat the ailment.
Between May 2014 and February 2015, according to the CDC, 243 people in 32 states and Puerto Rico got sick with a strain of Shigella sonnei bacteria resistant to Cipro.
Shigella in the U.S. is already resistant to two other antibiotics: ampicillin and trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole. This means, alarmingly, that there aren't that many other ways to treat it.
"Drug-resistant infections are harder to treat and because Shigella spreads so easily between people, the potential for more -- and larger -- outbreaks is a real concern," CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden said in a statement, reported NBC. "Shigellosis can spread very quickly in groups like children in childcare facilities, homeless people and gay and bisexual men."
"Washing your hands with soap and water is important for everyone. Also, international travelers can protect themselves by choosing hot foods and drinking only from sealed containers," said Dr. Anna Bowen, a medical officer in CDC's Waterborne Diseases Prevention Branch who led the study.
On Friday, the White House announced a five-year, $1.2 billion plan to fight drug-resistant "superbugs" by tracking them better and creating faster tests and new drugs, NBC reported.