The serotype distribution and susceptibility to 14 antimicrobial agents of 526 isolates of Shigella spp. from four hospitals in Sun county, Henan province, China during 2001–2008, were analysed to identify associations of serotypes with resistance trends. S. flexneri was the most frequent species (92·4%), the remainder was S. sonnei. The prevalent serotype of S. flexneri was 2a (26·7%). Almost all (>99%) isolates were resistant to tetracycline, nalidixic acid and pipemidic acid; >64% were resistant to chloramphenicol, amoxicillin and co-trimoxazole but less than 5% were resistant to polymyxin B, furazolidone, cefotaxime and gentamicin. S. flexneri showed statistically significant higher resistance than S. sonnei to amoxicillin, ampicillin, chloramphenicol and ciprofloxacin but resistance to co-trimoxazole was more common in S. sonnei than in S. flexneri. These results emphasize that monitoring of emerging resistance in Shigella isolates is essential for timely and appropriate recommendations for antimicrobial therapy.