Shigella is a bacterial virulent that causes shigellosis which is a type of bacterial diarrhea. Its evolution is as old as the origin of homo sapiens and it is characterized as one of the earliest human-specific pathogens. Its progression dates back to 35000 to 170000 years ago. A pathogen from the Enterobacteriaceae family, Shigella encompasses four species. These four strains of this microorganism namely “Shigella dysenteriae, Shigella flexneri, Shigella boydii, Shigella soneii” cause numerous cases of shigellosis every year. While the infection caused by Shigella sonnei is regarded as mild and may cause watery diarrhea, but Shigella flexneri and Shigella dysenteriae result in dysentery with bloody diarrhea (Aslam & Okafor, 2020). This essay aims to explore the basic characteristics, modes of transmission, virulence factors, and prevention and treatment methods of shigella. The essay further explains the Christian worldview that could be beneficial in the treatment of patients diagnosed with shigellosis.
Shigellae is a rod-shaped gram-negative bacterium. Its genetic makeup is much similar to that of E. coli. It is non-motile and facultatively anaerobic. Shigella is approximately 0.4 to 0.6 micrometers across and 1 to 3 micrometers in length. These are categorized as non-spore-forming bacteria (Mumy, 2014). It causes approximately one hundred eighty-eight million infections each year with around one million deaths. In the United States, 450,000 cases of shigellosis are reported annually and the incidence of Shigella sonnei is the highest (77%). Shigella flexneri is more common in developing countries, especially among young children between four to eleven years of age. It is also the most common pathogen in Saharan Africa and South Asia (Aslam & Okafor, 2020).
Modes of Transmission
Generally transmitted through the orofecal route, Shigella spreads easily. It is regarded as a food-borne and water-borne disease however, it may also spread sexually among homosexual men. Shigella infection is also spread through flies and by touching surfaces that are contaminated by the bacteria. Commonly contaminated surfaces include but are not limited to bathroom fixtures, toys, etc. Untreated water such as that in swimming pools, as well as flood and sewage water, can also be a source of its propagation. Unhygienic practices of preparing food especially when one is infected can also transmit the bacteria to others.
Due to its high immunity against stomach acid, Shigella is quite virulent and only 10 to 200 organisms can cause the disease. Shigella adheres to the epithelium of the intestine upon ingestion, multiplies, and then spreads to the large intestine. It causes cell injury and directly invades the colonic mucosa. It is highly responsive against the human immune system and produces enterotoxins. Shigella can invade the host cell wall by utilizing the Type III Secretion System which transports this effector protein into the cytoplasm of the human host cells. Environmental factors, particularly oxygen levels impact the secretion (Aslam & Okafor, 2020).
Prevention and Treatment
Shigellosis can be prevented by ensuring good hygiene practices. However, once infected the main purpose of treatment is to maintain hydration and electrolyte levels in the body. In most cases, oral hydration is recommended along with the antibiotic treatment that lasts 5-7 days.
The Christian worldview posits that sickness and suffering are not created by God and that it does not “really” exist. It considers sickness as a mere illusion that can be healed, corrected, or even halted through prayer. However, the role of faith is important for healing to take place. This worldview does not support the use of tools utilized by the professional health care community (Foley, 2006). Since faith and belief is a major component of healing in the Christian worldview, providing patients with a healing environment that promotes it can be beneficial in recovery. An important aspect of this is to see the patient’s point of view to provide an individualized plan of care (Pfeiffer, 2018).
Aslam, A., & Okafor, C. N. (2020). Shigella (Shigellosis). StatPearls; StatPearls Publishing: Treasure Island, FL, USA.
Foley, R. L. (2006). A theology of sickness. The Bronx Health REACH. New York.
Mumy, K. L. (2014). Shigella. Encyclopedia of Toxicology, 254-255.
Pfeiffer, J. (2018). Strategies Christian nurses use to create a healing environment. Religions, 9(11).