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A rise in dysentery caused by the shigella virus has been identified among gay men, according to the findings from a Health Protection Agency (HPA) investigation published last week.

The HPA identified 31 cases of shigella infection acquired in the UK between September to December 2011. The cases found were predominantly male, with just under half reporting male on male sexual activity within the previous week.

This suggests that shigella acquired in the UK can we transmitted through sex or secondary contact and so gay men are at risk. The HPA believes the current outbreak of shigella is larger than the 31 cases recorded in the UK.

The shigella virus is usually picked up by drinking contaminated water or eating food washed with contaminated water. The most common symptom is diarrhoea, which can often be bloody. The HPA is urging gay men to consult their doctor if they show these symptoms. They are also asking health professionals to look out for cases in gay men.

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