Bacillary Dysentery

Bacillary dysentery is a gastrointestinal disease caused by bacterial infection. Symptoms include severe diarrhea, fever, stomach pain, nausea and vomiting. The condition is most common in developing countries with poor sanitation. Some cases can be life-threatening and require antibiotics and hospitalization.


What is bacillary dysentery?

Bacillary dysentery is a gastrointestinal disease. Bacillary means related to bacteria, and dysentery is severe diarrhea containing blood or mucus.

With bacillary dysentery, a bacterial infection becomes more invasive and severe, causing inflammation in the intestines. Symptoms can range from mild to life-threatening.

Bacterial infections that lead to bacillary dysentery are very contagious, so it’s essential to practice good hygiene.


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Who might get bacillary dysentery?

Bacillary dysentery can occur anywhere in the world. But it’s a significant problem in countries with poor sanitation regarding sewage and water supply. People who live in developing countries are more likely to get bacillary dysentery.

How common is bacillary dysentery?

Scientists estimate that the condition affects about 164 million people worldwide every year, mostly in developing countries. It kills more than 1 million people per year.


What’s the difference between bacillary dysentery and amoebic dysentery?

Bacillary dysentery is caused by bacteria, but amoebic dysentery (amoebiasis) is caused by an amoeba (single-cell parasite).

What is the incubation period for bacillary dysentery?

An incubation period is the amount of time between exposure to a germ and the appearance of symptoms. The incubation period for the bacteria that can lead to bacillary dysentery is usually one to three days. But it can be as long as a week.

People with bacillary dysentery should isolate themselves for seven days to prevent infecting other people.


Symptoms and Causes

What causes bacillary dysentery?

The bacterial infections that can lead to bacillary dysentery are very contagious. The bacteria are usually passed from person to person when fecal matter (poop) from an infected person gets into another person’s mouth. This can occur during:

  • Food preparation by someone with poor hygiene.
  • Ingestion of contaminated water.
  • Sexual contact, especially involving the anus.

Bacillary dysentery occurs when foreign bacteria enter a person’s body and the infection becomes severe.

Some of the most common bacteria that lead to bacillary dysentery are:

What are the signs and symptoms of bacillary dysentery?

The symptoms of bacillary dysentery range from mild to severe, including:

Complications of severe disease include extreme inflammation, dilation (widening) of the large intestine and acute kidney disease.

Diagnosis and Tests

How is bacillary dysentery diagnosed?

A healthcare provider can diagnose bacillary dysentery with a stool culture. This type of bacteria culture test takes a sample of your poop and tests it for the presence of certain bacteria.

Management and Treatment

How is bacillary dysentery treated?

Many people with bacillary dysentery don’t need medical treatment. The symptoms often get better in a few days to a week. Those people should:

  • Avoid antidiarrhea medications, which can worsen symptoms.
  • Drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration (common with diarrhea).
  • Isolate themselves from other people for at least two full days after the last episode of diarrhea.
  • Take over-the-counter medications to reduce pain and fever.

For those who require medical attention, treatment often includes:


How can I prevent bacillary dysentery?

The best way to prevent bacillary dysentery is to practice good hygiene. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water after going to the bathroom and before handling food.

Other steps to reduce your risk of infection include:

  • Don’t share personal items with other people, such as towels.
  • Don’t use water unless you are sure it’s sterile (free of germs). Strategies include boiling water, using chlorine tablets or using bottled water. This includes water for drinking, cooking and brushing your teeth, as well as for ice.
  • Stay away from other people who are ill.
  • Thoroughly cook all food.
  • Wash all fresh fruits or vegetables with clean water, or peel before eating.

How can I avoid spreading bacillary dysentery?

If you have bacillary dysentery, you should take certain steps to avoid spreading the infection.

For at least 48 hours after the last symptoms, don’t:

  • Be around other people.
  • Have sexual contact with anyone else.
  • Prepare food for other people.
  • Swim.

In addition, you should:

  • Clean toilets, sinks and handles thoroughly.
  • Wash your laundry in the hottest water possible.

Outlook / Prognosis

What is the outlook for a person with bacillary dysentery?

Some people with bacillary dysentery feel better in a few days without medical treatment. Others develop serious complications, and the condition can be life-threatening.

Living With

When should I seek medical attention for bacillary dysentery?

You should visit a healthcare provider if the symptoms don’t go away in a few days or if they worsen over time.

Also, seek medical attention if you have signs of dehydration, including:

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Bacillary dysentery is a gastrointestinal disease involving severe diarrhea containing blood or mucus. It’s caused by bacterial infection. If you have severe diarrhea that doesn’t go away or signs of dehydration, talk to a healthcare provider.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed on 03/23/2022.

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