The sexually transmitted disease gonorrhea is associated with high sickness and socioeconomic consequences. It is a major public health concern worldwide. Gonorrhea has gradually developed resistance to the antibiotics suggested to treat it.
The case of a British man being infected with a strong case of gonorrhea has caused new fears about it. The ongoing rise in the long combat against gonorrhea has taken a disturbing turn. Since the 1940s, when penicillin was used against infection, gonorrhea has progressively become resistant to every drug that’s been thrown at it.
Now, a British man has caught a strain that’s resistant to some of the last antibiotics the medical community has left to battle the illness. The case highlights the trials of combating the sexually transmitted disease. The experts say it comes as struggles to develop the next gonorrhea-fighting drugs have largely stalled.
The man seemingly picked up the super germ from a sexual partner in Southeast Asia earlier this year. A combination of the antibiotics ceftriaxone and azithromycin — the cocktail suggested by the World Health Organization and other agencies — has failed to treat it.
That’s a first in Britain, though Dr. Manica Balasegaram, who is the director of the World Health Organization’s Global Antibiotic Research & Development Partnership, said there’s been news of similar drug-resistant gonorrhea recently in Spain, France, and Japan. This could mark a provoking trend in a disease which is common and on the rise.
“Countries with the good investigation are reporting an increase in cases,” Balasegaram told. He further said that the second most commonly reported infection in the United States is gonorrhea. The cases rose by 13 percent between 2014 and 2015.
A need for new strategies
That spread of this so-called “super gonorrhea” is causing researchers to rethink schemes.
Dr. Heidi Bauer, head of the California Department of Public Health’s STD Control Branch, said that a British man was given a gram of the antibiotic cephalosporin. It four times to the amount commended in the United States. And it failed to work. It is an extreme case, but the problem is familiar.
“One of the distinctive characteristics of the organism causing gonorrhea is that it can develop resistance rapidly,” Bauer told. She told there hasn’t been “evident treatment failure” in the U.S. Although a group of cases in Hawaii in 2016 had high levels of drug resistance.
Still, there’s “some inevitability” to gonorrhea evolving high levels of drug resistance, Bauer said, which has led in some cases to relying on antibiotics which are more largely forceful rather than targeted at certain bacteria.
That arms race likely is not a feasible long-term scheme, though. “It is hard to be hopeful that the answer will be more antibiotics,” she notified.
Drug pipeline is nearly dry
A 2013 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) named gonorrhea as the third most urgent antibiotic-resistant danger in the United States — despite the fact that the disease is not deadly.
Later, the White House developed the Fighting Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria scheme, and Congress assigned funds to investigate and develop innovative drugs. But there are limited clinical trials discovering new medications according to her. She called the pipeline for new treatments of gonorrhea “severely depleted, with only three new entities in several stages of clinical expansion.”
One is being developed by her Global Antibiotic Research and Development Partnership in association with a small company. About which she says is the “only medicine in clinical development particularly targeting gonorrhea.”
She said they hope to make the product commercially available in the coming three to four years.
More useful, for now, would be interfering the spread of gonorrhea through program’s “sentinel sites” in cities around the country. This can collect samples each month from gonorrhea patients to monitor the evolution of bacterium toward more powerful strains.
Despite how common gonorrhea is and despite the current rise in federal funding, the risk is still all too often underrated, she said.