Incurable gonorrhea may be next superbug
Some strains of STD showing signs of becoming resistant to all treatments
By Brian Alexander
An alarming new superbug may be on its way — an incurable form of gonorrhea. The disease, once easily killed with a shot of penicillin, is increasingly becoming drug-resistant. Soon, the world may face a version that can’t be killed by any known antibiotic, warned Catherine Ison, the director of the sexually transmitted bacteria reference library with the
In recent years, as the disease has evolved, medications once proven to kill the bacteria have become less effective except one, a class of antibiotics called cephalosporins. Now some strains of gonorrhea are showing signs of being resistant to even that, Ison told those at a scientific meeting last week in
"If this problem isn't addressed, there's a very real possibility that gonorrhea will become a very difficult infection to treat," she said.
Gonorrhea is the second most commonly reported infectious disease in the
“We will probably have something like 700,000 cases of gonorrhea this year,” suggested Dr. Edward W. Hook, professor of medicine at the
Not all of those who are infected know it, contributing to the problem. Undiagnosed cases, or infections that are unsuccessfully treated and then linger without obvious symptoms, can create serious health problems. For example, teenage girls between 15 and 19 account for more cases than any other age group. If they aren’t cured, they risk pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility or ectopic pregnancies. People infected with gonorrhea are also about three times more likely to become infected with HIV should they come into contact with the virus.
“The other major cost is infection of children born to infected mothers,” Hook explained. “And rarely you can get gonorrheal infections of heart valves, and arthritis.”