Shigellosis / Shigella

By Dr. Kelvin Adams. Updated 13th Oct 2014

Some STIs are more specific to gay and bisexual men, such as Shigellosis (or Shigella). Shigellosis is a type of gastroenteritis, (or gastro) that is caused by the bacterium Shigella.

Symptoms include diarrhoea (which may contain blood), nausea or vomiting, stomach cramps and fever. Symptoms may occur 1 – 4 days after exposure, and symptoms may last 4 – 7 days.

After recovery, Shigella bacteria may still be present in faeces for several weeks even after symptoms have ceased.

Shigella is spread by the faecal-oral route. In gay and bisexual men, this usually results from rimming (oral stimulation of the anus during sex).  It may also be spread by getting infected faeces on your fingers, and then putting your fingers in your mouth eg. during fingering or fisting.

If you think you have Shigellosis, you should see your Doctor. This will ensure you are given proper treatment with antibiotics, and advice on stopping it spreading. You should avoid sex while you have symptoms and for at least 7 days after your symptoms clear. If you work handling food (eg hospitality), you need to have two negative faecal specimens for Shigella before you can return to work.

Shigella can be prevented by using a dental dam for rimming and wearing gloves for fingering or fisting. Wash your hands after fingering or fisting and after handling used condoms or sex toys that may have been in contact with faeces.