CDC warns that gonorrhea on verge of being untreatable

March 13, 2014 by Bob Yirka report
Credit: CDC

(Medical Xpress)—The CDC has issued a report detailing its findings in attempting to trace the increasing difficulty in treating gonorrhea, a sexually transmitted disease (STD) that can cause severe discomfort, serious medical problems (such as sterility) for both genders and in very rare cases, death.

Gonorrhea is a that has been around for thousands of years, if not longer, plaguing . In more recent times, it's had to evolve to survive as humans learned to treat it using penicillin and other . Over the past thirty years in particular, gonorrhea has evolved to the point that there are very few treatments left (ceftriaxone along with either azithromycin or doxycycline) and now, it looks like its poised to get the best of those as well, which will mean those who contract the disease in the very near future will find that doctors have no way to cure them.

To learn more about the evolutionary history of the disease, the CDC looked at data regarding 17 major cities in the United States between the years 1991 and 2006. They found that gonorrhea was more common in cities with low resistance, but ominously, they also found that rates of gonorrhea were rising faster in cities with high resistance. They note that currently, there are approximately 820,000 new cases of gonorrhea each year in this country. The real problem is that there are now so few antibiotics that are able to treat the disease, and while no strains of the bacteria that are resistant to them have been found so far in the United States, the same cannot be said for other countries.

The overriding conclusion of the researchers is that the world is now sitting on the precipice of losing the ability to fight a major bacterial infection. Worse perhaps, is that it may mark the first of many others to come. Gonorrhea infections typically only last for a few weeks or months, in most cases the immune system eventually wins over (after the disease has caused sometimes irreparable damage). The same cannot be said for some other bacterial infections that may also soon become untreatable. For that reason, scientists around the world continue to scramble to find alternatives. In the meantime, the CDC is predicting that the spread of treatment-resistant is imminent, and because of that the country (and the rest of the world) will soon begin to experience widespread outbreaks.

Explore further: Rise of antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea needs urgent action

More information: Chesson HW, Kirkcaldy RD, Gift TL, Owusu-Edusei K Jr, Weinstock HS. Ciprofloxacin resistance and gonorrhea incidence rates in 17 cities, United States, 1991–2006. Emerg Infect Dis [Internet]. 2014 Apr [date cited].

Antimicrobial drug resistance can hinder gonorrhea prevention and control efforts. In this study, we analyzed historical ciprofloxacin resistance data and gonorrhea incidence data to examine the possible effect of antimicrobial drug resistance on gonorrhea incidence at the population level. We analyzed data from the Gonococcal Isolate Surveillance Project and city-level gonorrhea incidence rates from surveillance data for 17 cities during 1991–2006. We found a strong positive association between ciprofloxacin resistance and gonorrhea incidence rates at the city level during this period. Their association was consistent with predictions of mathematical models in which resistance to treatment can increase gonorrhea incidence rates through factors such as increased duration of infection. These findings highlight the possibility of future increases in gonorrhea incidence caused by emerging cephalosporin resistance.

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5 / 5 (2) Mar 13, 2014
Fortunately, it is still preventable through behavioral choices.
5 / 5 (7) Mar 13, 2014
Fortunately, it is still preventable through behavioral choices.

This one is, but it is a harbinger of bacterial infections that aren't. If we use it as a research platform, it could point the way to head off all the others that are on the same vector to untreatability. Innocents get caught up in it too, remember; think otherwise faithful spouses who are lied to by the ones that aren't.
It would be a mistake to dismiss it the way AIDS was, calling it a moral punishment and letting it run rampant. If there was less reluctance to finding ways to deal with HIV at the beginning, rather than saying those who got it deserved it, it might have been stemmed off before it reached epidemic proportions, and affecting those who don't "deserve it".
3.7 / 5 (3) Mar 13, 2014
I agree with a lot of what you say, but I also think that we have to accept the fact that actions have consequences. I am all for continuously looking for treatments and cures for all diseases including STD's. However, if I engage in a great deal of casual sex with a lot of different partners I am increasing the chances of getting something myself and spreading it to others. As a responsible adult I have an obligation to use common sense. This isn't necessarily moralistic, so much as living with reality.

One of the messages of the AIDS epidemic was that medical science gives us hope. The other message, that many learned, was that we need to be responsible.

By the way, about twenty years ago I frequented a store whose owner had two sons who both died of AIDS. It was obviously horrible, they were her only immediate family.

Medical research, along with promotion of self-restraint can prevent things like that from happening.
5 / 5 (1) Mar 13, 2014
Okay, SoylentGrin, I may have gone a bit overboard in my response to you. Years ago there were a couple of "religious" tv personalities who made some statements about AIDS being a punishment. That always bothered me because none of the church goers that I knew, including fundamentalist protestants, I'm Catholic, made statements like that. I've always been bothered by the spin that a couple of those people put on the AIDS epidemic.
3.7 / 5 (6) Mar 14, 2014
Many if not most of the self righteous that prattled about 'just desserts' are hypocrites that cheat on their own wives at every opportunity..... 'Business' types that carouse on their '(monkey)business trips'. Unfortunately such as these get more sexual opportunities as many women 'on the make' hang out in the places in 'high rolling' night clubs frequented by these low lifes. Being republican, they are sneaky, care nothing for their fellow man, and spread these diseases widely, rampaging sociopaths leaving a trail of broken lives in their wake.
5 / 5 (2) Mar 14, 2014
'Being republican' - like John Edwards, Bill Clinton - those republicans?

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