Shigella can be caught during sex – leaving you with nasty diarrhoea and vomiting, expert warns

The infection, shigella, is normally associated with drinking contaminated water or eating contaminated food, but there's now a link in the bedroom as people become more promiscuous.

Dating apps have been blamed for a rise in sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in the last few years – and experts say shigella is no different, though it's not technically an STI.

Earlier in the year sexual health clinics reported a rise in STIs, blaming dating apps like Tinder and Bumble.

Users often delete partners’ profiles afterwards, preventing them from warning if they are later diagnosed with an infection, they said.

S. flexneri, the bacteria that causes the infection, started becoming more of a problem with the increase of anal–oral sex and has led to multiple STI outbreaks around the world since then, scientists say.

Shigella is passed on through direct contact with the bug in poo particles – yes, that means ingesting someone else's poo.

If an infected person goes to the toilet and doesn't wash their hands properly it can spread the bug.

But it can also be passed on if you put anything in your mouth that has been in contact with infected poo particles – think sex toys and even condoms.

Dr Sarah Jarvis, GP and clinical director of, told The Sun Online: "Like most bugs it is passed on through the oral faecal route.

"If you think about it, oral sex means you’re putting your tongue down there and your tongue is very close to their bottom.

“Anal sex is a particular issue because even if you use a condom during sex it can still be passed on if you touch the condom afterwards.

“Mouth to anus contact, or rimming, is extremely high risk."

Men who have sex with men are at a particularly high risk, Sarah said, but that doesn't mean heterosexual couples focusing on that area either.

"If you think about cystitis in women, it’s often caused by germs that live in the bowel so if they can travel up the urethra they can absolutely go into mouth," Sarah said.

"Even if you are just having genital to genital sex, if you touch yourself or them afterwards and then touch your mouth it can be passed on.

"Very few people have sex without putting a hand down there – and they then go into the mouth."

But don't worry, it's not like STIs like chlamydia and gonorrhoea which require prescription meds to clear it up.

Shigellosis will only last a few days and you can manage the symptoms at home yourself.

If you have a shigella infection you will experience diarrhoea, abdominal cramps and pain and vomiting.

In severe cases it can develop into dysentery, an infection of the intestine.

Symptoms usually start around two to five days after infection.

Make sure you drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration, and visit a doctor to see if antibiotics are required.

Paracetamol and ibuprofen can be used to ease headaches and high temperatures.

You should stay away from work, school or college for at least 48 hours until the last vomiting or diarrhoea episode.

"I would advise you wait a few days after your symptoms have subsided to have sex again," Sarah added.

Basically, avoid contact with others as much as possible during this time – so that definitely means sex is off the cards for the time being.


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