Medical experts say ‘Super Gonorrhoea’ is now spreading across the globe and it's virtually untreatable since it's resistant to almost every antibiotic on the market. The news only gets worse when it comes to drug-resistant gonorrhea.
Brand new data from the World Health Organization suggests that the sexually transmitted bacterium, which has learned to repel almost all the antibiotics available to cure it, is making more progress in its relentless march toward untreatable status.
Doctors have said that the current recommended regimen for gonorrhea is a combination of two antibiotics, azithromycin, which comes in pill form, and ceftriaxone, which is injected.
During a recent intelligence gathering of worldwide surveillance data compiled by the WHO, the results suggest that 66 percent of reporting countries had seen gonorrhea strains that were either resistant to or displayed reduced susceptibility to ceftriaxone in at least one year between 2009 and 2014. And 81 percent of the reporting countries saw strains that were either resistant to or had reduced susceptibility to azithromycin.
A tragic reality with pessimistic opinions as to the ability of modern medicine to even counter the sexually transmitted diseases tends to be normal, acknowledged Dr. Teodora Wi.
Dr. Wi is a medical officer in the WHO’s department of reproductive health and research. That’s because global surveillance for drug-resistant gonorrhea is spotty, and is done more commonly in affluent countries than in low-income countries.
The report included data from only 77 countries. Most African nations and the rate of gonorrhea is high in parts of Africa, did not report.
“If high-income countries are able to detect it … then there are more cases of untreatable gonorrhea in most of these countries and they are not really being documented at this point,” Wi said.
To date, doctors in Japan, Spain, and France have reported individual cases in which they were unable to cure gonorrhea infections. But in at least one case the patient did not return for further follow-up, and it’s unclear what his or her status is, Wi said.
Doctors who work in this field have warned for years that it’s only a matter of time before the current recommended treatment begins to fail on a regular basis. At the moment, there is no alternative treatment.
“The news is looking a little bit grim. We need to get our act together and we need to get moving,” said Dr. Manica Balasegaram, director of the Global Antibiotic Research and Development Partnership, which is working to accelerate testing and development of antibiotics that might work for gonorrhea but are still experimental.
The need for new options is huge. An estimated 78 million people a year are infected with gonorrhea. There is currently no vaccine and people who have been cured can be reinfected.
In the early days of the AIDS epidemic, rates of gonorrhea and other sexually transmitted infections tumbled, because the fear of the disease spurred more people to use condoms and practice other forms of safer sex.
But those good habits started to fall by the wayside when antiretroviral drugs became available and HIV infection became more of a chronic condition than a killer.
Gonorrhea is particularly insidious because it has been so successful at evolving to evade the antibiotics prescribed to treat it. While women may experience lower abdominal pain and men a burning sensation during urination, for some people the infection is virtually symptom-free.