The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned everyone that the sexually-transmitted disease gonorrhea has emerged as a super bug since the bacteria has started to resist antibiotics. From CBS News:

“The bacteria that cause gonorrhea are particularly smart. Every time we use a new class of antibiotics to treat the infection, the bacteria evolve to resist them,” Dr. Teodora Wi, a WHO medical officer specializing in reproductive health, said in a statement.

Each year, 78 million people are infected with gonorrhea worldwide, but experts say the actual number is likely much higher.

“These cases may just be the tip of the iceberg, since systems to diagnose and report untreatable infections are lacking in lower-income countries where gonorrhea is actually more common,” Wi said.

Researchers looked over gonorrhea cases “from 77 countries” between 2009 and 2014. The data showed them that the disease has grown to resist “the most commonly used antibiotics.” Latest data has shown it has also started to resist “the current last-resort treatment,” which is the “injectable cetriaxone.”

France, Japan, and Spain have cases of gonorrhea that cannot be cured by that last defense treatment. From Gizmodo:

The agency is now advising doctors to prescribe a double-whammy treatment involving both azithromycin and ceftriaxone. This is a rather grim prescription, given that azithromycin-resistant gonorrhea is now being reported in 81 percent of countries, and ceftriaxone-resistant gonorrhea has taken root in 66 percent of countries. Ultimately, WHO says we need to develop a vaccine, because gonorrhea will always remain a step ahead of our efforts to curb it with antibiotics.

WHO also advised the medical community to develop new drugs to treat gonorrhea. But as of now, “only three new candidate drugs” are in clinical development. Pharmaceutical companies have remained hesitant to develop new drugs since the medicines “are only taken for short periods of time” and, as the evidence has shown, “become less effective over time as resistance develops.” Gizmodo continued:

“To address the pressing need for new treatments for gonorrhea, we urgently need to seize the opportunities we have with existing drugs and candidates in the pipeline,” said Manica Balasegaram, who directs the not-for-profit Global Antibiotic Research and Development Partnership (GARDP). “In the short term, we aim to accelerate the development and introduction of at least one of these pipeline drugs, and will evaluate the possible development of combination treatments for public health use. Any new treatment developed should be accessible to everyone who needs it, while ensuring it’s used appropriately, so that drug resistance is slowed as much as possible.”

In addition to developing new drugs and re-evaluating existing antibiotics, WHO says it’s critical to develop treatments that are easier to administer, and produce more simplified treatment guidelines.

People can transfer gonorrhea “through sexual contact with the genitals, mouth, or anus.”

Females have the most side effects with the disease, “including pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancy and infertility, as well as an increased risk of HIV.”

In other words, abstain from sex or use condoms.


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