Researchers at Public Health England have announced, as reported by the BBC, that a U.K. man has contracted a case of gonorrhea that is resistant to the two types of antibiotics that are normally used to treat such infections. It is, they further report, the first known instance of a case where a strain of the bacteria has developed resistance to both treatments.
The man was reportedly in a relationship with a woman in the U.K. but contracted the STD while traveling in Southeast Asia—officials are looking for that female partner but have not yet found her. The man, who has requested his name be withheld, has claimed that he had no other sexual partners. His relationship partner in the U.K. was not infected. Officials would very much like to find the woman that transmitted the infection to the U.K. man and any other partners she might have had, hoping to head off an outbreak of an untreatable STD. The WHO has reported that approximately 78 million people each year contract gonorrhea infections and that the bacteria is effectively adapting to overcome antibiotics. The development of a strain that has developed resistance to conventional antibiotics amps up fears that soon all bacterial infections will be untreatable, as more of them develop resistance.
Gonorrhea is an infection caused by Neisseria gonorrhoeae, and is usually localized to the site of infection. A large portion of those who become infected never have any symptoms—others are not so lucky, and develop pain in testicle ducts or in the pelvis in women. Infections have been known to cause infertility in some instances, and very rarely, death, in the event that bacteria spread to other vital parts of the body. Notably, there is a vaccine against gonorrhea, but it has proven to be effective in only 31 percent of cases.
The team treating the infected man has reported that another antibiotic, ertapenem, is now being used—it is considered a last-line-of-defense antibiotic. Thus far, it seems to be working, but the researchers will not know for sure until sometime next month.
Doctors and medical researchers strongly suggest that sexually active people use condoms.
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