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Could Gonorrhoea STD Become Untreatable?


A super-resistant strain of the sexually transmitted infection (STI) gonorrhoea is spreading fast through Europe, leaving doctors with dwindling options on how to treat it.

There is concern among experts in that a critical stage in the treatment of gonorrhoea is fast approaching, and if an alternative treatment is not developed soon gonorrhoea could soon become untreatable.

Europe Recognises the Problem.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) conducted a study called the European Gonococcal Antimicrobial Surveillance Programme (Euro-Gasp), and the results were worrying to say the least. The study found that the percentage of gonorrhoea cases that were resistant to the standard treatment for the infection, currently the antibiotic cefixime, had rose from 4% in 2009 to 9% in 2012.

The infection also took second place as the most commonly diagnosed STI throughout Europe. The new strain of gonorrhoea was found in seventeen European countries in 2010, seven more than the previous year. See gonorrhoea bacteria symptoms picture here.

Treatment failures

Marc Sprenger, Director of the ECDC, warned, “Decreasing susceptibility to recommended antimicrobials and increasing numbers of treatment failures across Europe ask for careful monitoring of the European gonococcal population as the as the loss of the current recommended treatments could result in untreatable gonorrhoea.

The World Health Organisation Report

The World Health Organisation (WHO) issued a press release at the beginning of June to notify media of the impending crisis, and urge doctors to consider each case of the infection carefully before prescribing antibiotics. WHO also urged medical researchers across the globe to work hard on finding an alternative treatment for gonococcal infections.

Dr Manjula Lusti-Narasimhan, from the WHO Department of Reproductive Health and Research, explained that, “Gonorrhoea is becoming a major public health challenge, due to the high incidence of infections accompanied by dwindling treatment options.”

Gonococcal infections

Although antimicrobial resistance does happen over time due to a disease organism slowly mutating to cope with antibiotic treatment. The problem is that with no new drugs being developed, people could find themselves with no treatment options if they contract gonorrhoea.

Dr Lusti Narasimhan says, “We are very concerned about recent reports of treatment failure from the last effective treatment option – the class of cephalosporin antibiotics – as there are no new therapeutic drugs in development. If gonococcal infections become untreatable, the health implications are significant.” Read the full report here.

Health Implications

One problem with detecting gonorrhoea is that often no symptoms present themselves, so people with the infection can pass on the infection without even being aware of doing so. This is thought to be one reason why the infection continues to spread, but knowing exactly how severe the problem is impossible because of the lack of data in many of the world’s countries.

Can cause infertility

It can cause infertility in women and men, along with and increased risk of contracting HIV and transmitting HIV. Babies that are born to women with an untreated gonorrhoea infection can be born with sever eye infections that may lead to blindness.

Further pregnancy complications include an increased risk of premature delivery, spontaneous abortion, and still births. Practicing safe sex can prevent the transmission of gonorrhoea, and immediate treatment after infection will also give people the best chance of controlling and curing the infection.

Andrew Faix

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