Vicious Drug Resistant Gonorrhea STD Strain Spreads

06/08/2012

Gonorrhea photoThe World Health Organization is warning of a particularly vicious drug resistant form of the sexually transmitted disease gonorrhea. It was first reported in Japan but has now surfaced in Britain, Australia, France, Sweden, and Norway. Health officials fear that the disease is a worldwide problem that is likely under reported, according to the Associated Press

“Gonorrhoea is becoming a major public health challenge, due to the high incidence of infections accompanied by dwindling treatment options,” says Dr Manjula Lusti-Narasimhan, from the Department of Reproductive Health and Research at WHO. “The available data only shows the tip of the iceberg. Without adequate surveillance we won’t know the extent of resistance to gonorrhoea and without research into new antimicrobial agents, there could soon be no effective treatment for patients.”

Gonorrhea is a bacterial infection that causes inflammation, infertility, and pregnancy complications. Babies born with the infection have a 50 percent chance of developing an extreme eye infection which can result in blindness. It's the second most prevalent STD next to chlamydia and it significantly increases one's risk of transmitting HIV. 

It’s known casually as the clap and was traditionally easily treatable with penicillin. But this super strain is drug resistant and seems to be resisting every treatment that doctors throw at it including “a group of antibiotics called cephalosporins currently considered the last line of treatment.”

According to the Associated Press:

Bacteria that survive antibiotic treatment due to a mutation that makes them resistant then quickly spread their genes in an accelerated process of natural selection. This is a general problem affecting all antibiotics, but gonorrhea is particularly quick to adapt because it is good at picking up snippets of DNA from other bacteria, said Lusti-Narasimhan.

Overuse and Misuse of Antibiotics

Overuse and misuse of antibiotics worldwide both in animals and humans seem to be the problem. The U.S. has recently began to act on the issue. The FDA just enacted a new rule saying that farmers and ranchers will need a prescription from a veterinarian before using antibiotics on farm animals and the use of antibiotics will no longer be allowed for the growth of animals.

The FDA hopes that this new rule will help vastly reduce the use of antibiotics and decrease the 99,000 U.S. deaths each year from hospital acquired infections that are resistant to antibiotics. We’re not sure about the connection between resistance in animals and in humans, but we do know that 80 percent of antibiotics in the U.S. are used in livestock. Over the counter availability of antibiotics in other countries has also contributed to overuse.

"In a couple of years it will have become resistant to every treatment option we have available now," she told The Associated Press in an interview ahead of WHO's public announcement on its `global action plan' to combat the disease.

Photo: Thinkstock

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Sara Novak writes about health and wellness for Discovery Health. Her work is also regularly featured in Breathe Magazine and on SereneKitchen.com. She has written extensively on food policy, food politics, and food safety.


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