Bacillary Dysentery – Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

Bacillary Dysentery

is also known as Marlow Syndrome or Shigellosis. It is caused by the bacteria Shiggela and is a food borne illness. Food and water contaminated with feces from an infected person bears the bacteria causing the illness. Poor hygiene makes it possible to enter the human body through the fecal oral route. Developing nations in Asia and Africa register about 165 million cases of severe dysentery and 1 million cases of death each year. The condition is predominantly seen in children. Tourists and soldiers traveling to these countries are prone to get it.

In the United States about 18,000 cases of Shiggelosis is reported annually. Infants, children, the elderly and immune compromised individuals fall into the high risk category. It is a contagious condition and can spread because of lack of hygiene in handling food and water.

The said condition is caused from strains of bacteria belonging to the Enterobacteriaceae family. However, the condition is best nicknamed Shiggela infection. The species of the Shiggela bacteria associated with the disease are Shiggela sonnei, Shiggela Bodyii, Shiggela flexneri and Shiggela dysenteriae. A less common type of the said dysentery is caused by the salmonella enterica bacteria.

Bacillary Dysentery in children

Symptoms of Bacillary Dysentery

  • Abdominal cramps.
  • Abdominal pain.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Dehydration.
  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Fever with chill.
  • Burning sensation in anus.
  • Rapid pulse.
  • Scanty urine.
  • Blood, pus or mucous in stools.
  • Tenesmus or painful straining associated with defecation of feces or urination.

Symptoms generally appear within 12-50 hours of the virus attack. The discharge of blood, pus and mucous differentiates it from chronic diarrhea. This is because the virus damages the mucous lining of the gastrointestinal tract causing it to bleed. Mucous ulceration and rectal bleeding sets it apart from similar symptoms of other diseases.


Apart from detecting the bacterial strain in stools there are not many tests which could help. Medical history, history of traveling and recent food intake, physical examination and in some cases blood tests can help confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment of Bacillary Dysentery

  • Milder forms of the disease are self limiting and resolve within a few days.
  • However, in acute forms the first thing to be done is to get the patient started on a oral rehydration Solution (ORS). The diarrhea and vomiting brings about a fluid and electrolyte loss. The lost fluids and electrolytes need to be replenished as early as possible.
  • If the signs of dehydration are severe as in an altered level of alertness, sunken eyes, change skin colon etc. then it becomes essential to administer electrolytes through an intravenous drip.
  • Once lab reports confirm the presence of the pathogen, an amoebicidal drug is needed to kill it.
  • Antibiotics like Ciprofloxacin and Norfloxacin are needed to cope with the bacterial infection in the body.
  • High fiber, fatty, spicy and seasoned foods should be avoided for a few days.

A point of concern about Shiggelosis is that increasingly many strains of Shiggela are becoming resistant to common antibiotics. This is because of the prevalent use of antibiotics in treating all infections including the self limiting ones. Besides, it is a condition for which no vaccines have been discovered.

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