What is it and how do I get it?

Shigella (or bacillary dysentery) is a bacterial infection which you can get by coming into contact with poo. You can get it from having sex with someone who has it, especially from rimming, but also from fisting, fingering or sharing of sex toys and douches, as it’s easy to get tiny bits of poo on your hands and then to get that in your mouth.

You can also get it from drinking contaminated water or by eating unwashed contaminated food. Recently, Shigella has become more common among men who have sex with men. Transmission of Shigella seems to be more common among men living with HIV and among men who sero-sort (sex between men with the same HIV status). You only need to get a tiny amount of the bacteria in your mouth to start feeling sick.

How do I prevent it?

It’s important to wash your hands regularly, especially after going to the toilet and during or after sex. To reduce the likelihood of infection, use gloves for fisting and condoms for sex or sharing toys and wash your hands or shower after having sex. If you are having bareback sex, avoid oral sex after unprotected anal sex in order to avoid the bacteria getting into your mouth. If you have been diagnosed with Shigella, avoid having sex until you have fully recovered so that you don’t pass it on to your partners.

How do I know I've got it?

You can begin to experience diarrhoea combined with fever, abdominal cramps and/or rectal pain between 12 and 96 hours after becoming infected with Shigella. Symptoms can also include severe and bloody diarrhoea. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you should get yourself tested by your GP or at a GUM clinic.

How do I get it treated?

Most of the time you will recover with no complications within a week or 10 days but in some cases, especially if you have severe and/or bloody diarrhoea, you may need to take antibiotics.

Which sexual partners should I inform if I've been diagnosed with Shigella?

If you have symptoms or have tested positive for Shigella, you should inform anyone you've had sex with up to a week before the symptoms started.

Last updated: 19/11/2016