There are four species of the Shigella bacteria that can cause shigella infection also known as shigellosis or bacillary dysentery. These are:

  • Shigella sonnei
  • Shigella flexneri
  • Shigella boydii
  • Shigella dysenteriae

The most common of these four species in Scotland is Shigella sonnei.

Shigella boydii and Shigella dysenteriae are not indigenous to the UK and occur as travel associated infections. Shigella sonnei and Shigella flexneri can be acquired in the UK, although they can also be associated with overseas travel.

Infection with all four species can occur by person to person spread via faecal oral transmission. Infection can also be spread by food or water contaminated with human faeces.

Infection with Shigella sonnei and Shigella flexneri have also been associated with sexual transmission among men who have sex with men.

Infection with Shigella dysenteriae is more severe than with the other species of Shigella.

Information about the symptoms and managing Shigella infection is available on the NHS Inform website.


Information on the safe handling of food is available on the Food Standards Scotland website.

The chance of infection can be reduced during travel by following advice on food and water precautions on the fitfortravel website.

For all infection prevention and control guidance visit the A-Z ​pathogens section of the National Infection and Prevention Control Manual.

Data and surveillance

Surveillance reports

Data tables

View annual totals for shigella in the ten-year gastrointestinal and zoonoses data tables.