Resistant Gonorrhea Cases On The Rise

Luis Badillo, Writer

Medical experts are concerned over new anti-biotic resistant mutation of gonorrhea.
gonorrhea, a sexually transmitted disease commonly known as “the clap”, has been a manageable problem for the United States in recent years. “In 2010 over 300,000 cases were reported to the CDC,” says Dr. Bob Kirkcaldy, a medical officer for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Though 300,000 may seem like a large number, doctors have been keeping the infection at bay with the final drug still effective against the resistant strain of gonorrhea, a family of antibiotics knows as Cephalosporin.
However, due to a recent mutation that may all change. As NPR reports, in mid-June, experts in Japan reported a new strain of gonorrhea has emerged which has been dubbed “H041”. Many have been calling it “Super Gonorrhea” for it being able to resist eight times the usual amount of antibiotics to kill the infection.
With results such as these, doctors like Nanjula Lusti-Narasimahan of the U.N. Health Agency are getting worried. “The organism has been developing resistance against every medication we’ve thrown at it,” said Dr. Lusti-Narasimahan to the Huffington Post. “In a couple years, it’ll become resistant to every option we have available now, possibly making gonorrhea untreatable in the near future.”
Gonorrhea has had a history of not going down without a fight. While the discovery of penicillin and tetracycline were enough to keep the infection’s numbers low, the 1970s saw a surge in the strains of resistant bacteria. A similar occurrence happened later with the family of antibiotics known as Fluoroquinolones used to treat gonorrhea. Most scientists attribute this to the evolutionary effect of natural selection. As the strains of gonorrhea that are vulnerable to the antibiotics are killed off from the bacteria’s gene pool, the bacteria with gene mutations resistant to antibiotics are more likely to replicate. Trying to completely eliminate gonorrhea only accelerates the process of natural selection.
With the H041 strain on the rise, the World Health Organization (WHO) is pushing countries to improve their surveillance of the infection. The alarm is sounding off now that the strain has been spotted in Britain, Australia, France, and Sweden, Norway, and various Asian countries. Since most of these are countries with well developed health systems, experts believe that the spread of the resistant gonorrhea is circulating in countries without the resources to monitor them. Also, the spread of H401 may be accelerated by the use of over-the-counter antibiotics available in some Asian countries.
Medical experts are calling for action to see if they can slow down the progress of the super bug. “Better sex education” is something Dr. Lusti-Narasimahan says can slow down H401. July’s CDC report also urges for “enhanced disease control activities”. But above all, reports state that “ultimately, new drugs are essential” in order to have doctors effectively fight gonorrhea.
In the meantime, what does one do in a future where gonorrhea may soon be untreatable? The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) has a couple tips. Monogamous sexual relationships where both partners are free of STDs greatly reduce the risk of either contracting one. The proper use of condoms also greatly lowers the chance of contracting STDs of any sort. And, of course the “only absolute method” to prevent gonorrhea, says the NCBI, is abstinence.
Gonorrhea has been known to not just cause a burning sensation during urination, but can also bring about severe pain to the lower abdomen, joint infection, heart valve infection, meningitis, abscess, and complications leading to infertility in women. Gonorrhea has also been known to greatly increase the chance of one getting the HIV virus.
For more information on STDs or tests, please contact Student Health Services in E051 at (773) 442-5800 or through email at [email protected]