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Potentially lethal complications of shigellosis.

Complications that can lead to death during shigellosis include intestinal as well as systemic manifestations. The former include intestinal perforation, toxic megacolon, and dehydration, and the latter include sepsis, hyponatremia, hypoglycemia, seizures and encephalopathy, hemolyticuremic syndrome, pneumonia, and malnutrition. Data on the frequency of these complications come primarily from hospital-based studies, in which sepsis-either with Shigella or with other Enterobacteriaceae-and hypoglycemia are the most common causes of death. Management of these two complications requires broad-spectrum empiric antibiotic treatment of all severely ill, malnourished patients with shigellosis as well as frequent feedings to prevent hypoglycemia. Unfortunately, in developing countries, access to parenteral broad-spectrum antimicrobial agents is often limited, and frequent feedings are often precluded by the severe anorexia that is characteristic of shigellosis. Realistic approaches to the reduction of mortality from shigellosis must continue to focus on prevention and early antimicrobial therapy rather than on treatment of established complications.

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