A day to remember: Kiyoshi Shiga

Kiyoshi Shiga

Kiyoshi Shiga (February 7, 1871 – January 25, 1957) was a Japanese physician and bacteriologist.

Shiga was born in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, though his original family name was Satō. He graduated from the Medical School of Tokyo Imperial University in 1896 and went to work at the Institute for the Study of Infectious Diseases under Dr. Kitasato Shibasaburō. Shiga became famous for the discovery of Shigella dysenteriae, the bacillus causing dysentery, in 1897, during a severe epidemic in which more than 90,000 cases were reported, with a mortality rate approaching 30%.[1] The bacterium Shigella was thus named after him, as well as the shiga toxin, which is produced by the bacterium.

When attending the trecentenary celebration at Harvard [2], 1936, he opened his speech with:

Many thousands still suffer from this disease every year, and the light of hope that once burned so brightly has faded as a dream of a summer night. This sacred fire must not burn out

After the discovery of Shigella, Shiga worked with Paul Ehrlich in Germany from 1901 to 1905. After returning to Japan, he resumed the study of infectious diseases with Dr. Kitasato. He became a professor at Keio University in 1920.

From 1929 to 1931, Shiga was the president of Keijō Imperial University in Keijo (Seoul) and was senior medical advisor to the Japanese Governor-General of Korea. Shiga was a recipient of the Order of Culture in 1944. He was also awarded the Order of the Sacred Treasure, 1st class, on his death in 1957.


The causative agent of human shigellosis, Shigella causes disease in primates, but not in other mammals. It is only naturally found in humans and gorillas. During infection, it typically causes dysentery.

Shigella is one of the leading bacterial causes of diarrhea worldwide, causing an estimated 80-165 million cases. The number of deaths it causes each year is estimated at between 74,000 and 600,000 deaths. It is in the top four pathogens that cause moderate-to-severe diarrhea in African and South Asian children.


  1. Kiyoshi Shiga on Wikipedia. Accessed on 6 February 2017. 
  2. Rofa AF, Ueno-Olsen H, Oiwa R, Yoshikawa M (1999), "Dr. Kiyoshi Shiga: discoverer of the dysentery bacillus", Clinical Infectious Diseases, 29 (5): 1303–1306, doi:10.1086/313437
  3. Shigellosis on Wikipedia. Accessed on 6 February 2017
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