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BACKGROUND: Shigella remains the primary cause of diarrhoea in paediatric patients worldwide and accounts for up to 40,000 deaths per year. Current guidelines for the treatment of shigellosis are based on data which are over a decade old. In an era of increasing antimicrobial resistance, an updated review of the appropriate empirical therapy for shigellosis in children is necessary, taking into account susceptibility patterns, cost and the risk of adverse events. METHODS: A systematic review of the current published literature on the treatment of shigella dysentery was undertaken in accordance with the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA). RESULTS: The initial search produced 131 results, of which nine studies met the inclusion criteria. The quality of the studies was assessed as per the Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE) guidelines. International guidelines were also reviewed. There is a lack of current research regarding the clinical treatment of shigellosis in paediatric and adult patients, despite rising antimicrobial resistance worldwide. In particular, there is a lack of studies assessing the non-susceptibility of community-acquired strains, with almost all published research pertaining to microbiological data from hospital-based settings. DISCUSSION: Current WHO guidelines support the use of fluoroquinolones (first-line), β-lactams (second-line) and cephalosporins (second-line) which accords with currently available evidence and other international guidelines, and there is no strong evidence for changing this guidance. Azithromycin is appropriate as a second-line therapy in regions where the rate of non-susceptibility of ciprofloxacin is known to be high, and research suggests that, from a cardiac point of view, azithromycin is safer than other macrolide antibiotics. Cefixime is also a reasonable alternative, although its use must be weighed against the risk of dissemination of extended-spectrum β-lactamase-producing organisms.

Original publication




Journal article


Paediatr Int Child Health

Publication Date





S50 - S65


Dysentery, antibiotics, antimicrobial resistance, shigella, shigellosis, treatment guidelines, Adolescent, Anti-Bacterial Agents, Child, Child, Preschool, Drug Resistance, Bacterial, Dysentery, Bacillary, Guidelines as Topic, Humans, Infant, Infant, Newborn, World Health Organization