Kiyoshi Shiga

Shigella dysenteriae, as well as the other bacilli in the genus  Shigella, are named for the Japanese physician and bacteriologist Kiyoshi Shiga, who first isolated  S. dysenteriae around the turn of the 19th century. These bacteria are the most common causes of dysentery, specifically coined shigellosis in cases caused by Shigella bacteria. Shigellosis causes diarrhea, fever, abdominal pain, and rectal tenesmus, and has the potential for life-threatening complications such as intestinal perforation, sepsis, and hemolytic uremia. As the WHO reports 80 million cases and 700,000 deaths per year, 99% of which occur in developing countries, Shiga’s discoveries and work have been instrumental in preventing the proliferation of this horrible disease in the first world.

Kiyoshi Shiga was born in 1871, in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, Japan. Entering the Tokyo Imperial University School of Medicine in 1892, he was mentored by Dr. Shibasaburo Kitasato, famed for his discovery of tetanus antitoxin and work on  Yersinia pestis in Hong Kong. As a member of Dr. Kitasato’s Institute for Infectious Diseases, Shiga worked tirelessly on the search for the cause to Japan’s 1897 dysentery outbreak (90,000 cases, 30% mortality), finally isolating a gram-negative bacillus that agglutinated on dysentery patient serum. He developed and distributed intravenous and oral vaccines for the pathogen, using himself as a test subject. He spent four years in Paul Ehrlich’s lab at the  Institut für Experimental Therapie in Frankfurt, Germany, where he worked on early chemotherapy methods. To global acclaim, he presented his work on shigellosis in Manila in 1906. Due to restructuring of the Institute for Infectious Diseases, he left with Kitasato to form the Kitasato Institute in 1914. He served as a medical professor at Keio University in Tokyo, as well as the director of National Hospital of Seoul, Korea, and the President of Keijo University in Seoul. In 1931 he returned to Japan to continue his research into dysentery and tuberculosis at the Kitasato Institute until 1945. He died in 1957, at 85 years of age.


World Health Organization. 2005. Guidelines for the control of shigellosis, including epidemics caused by  Shigella dystenteriae  Type 1. ISBN 9 24 159330X;

“Shigellosis.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.  23 Aug 2018.

Trofa A., Ueno-Olsen H., Oiwa R., and Yoshikawa M. 1999. Dr. Kiyoshi Shiga: Discoverer of the Dysentery Bacillus. Clinical Infectious Diseases 29:5; doi:10.1086/313437

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