Gonorrhea looks like it is becoming more resistant to antibiotic treatments. That's the warning the World Health Organization (WHO) issued to governments and doctors.
Gonorrhea, commonly called the clap, is a sexually transmitted disease that can lead to inflammation, pelvic inflammatory disease and pregnancy complications in women if untreated. In men with gonorrhea, some symptoms may include a burning feeling during urination and women also have a burning sensation as well as vaginal discharge. Around 30 to 50 percent of babies born to mothers with untreated gonorrhea will develop severe eye infections which could lead to blindness.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 700,000 new cases of gonorrhea occur each year in America although more than half of the infections go unreported to the CDC. The WHO reports 106 million new cases of gonorrhea occur across the globe each year.
Although gonorrhea can be cured, the disease is becoming more and more resistant to antibiotic treatments, with Australia, the United Kingdom, Japan, France, Sweden and Norway reporting cases of antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea, note WHO. The international cases are a cause for concern because resistance to cephalosporins, a group of antibiotics, which are the last effective treatments against gonorrhea, effectively eliminates any way to treat the disease.
Dr. Manjula Lusti-Narasimhan, from the Department of Reproductive Health and Research at WHO urges surveillance in order to determine how widespread the resistance may be. Previously, gonorrhea has developed resistance against penicillin as well as antibiotic treatments tetracyclines and quinolones.
The WHO is also recommending more research into other ways to treat gonorrhea. Developing a resistance to cephalosporins could be especially problematic as it is the last effective treatment against gonorrhea and no other treatments are being developed, noted Dr. Lusti-Narasimhan.
Resistance to antibiotic treatment could be due to several factors. Overuse of antibiotics, or using poor antibiotics, could allow the disease to mutate and develop a natural resistance that can spread to future strains of the disease. Gonorrhea also keeps its antibiotic resistance from one generation to the next, modern strains of gonorrhea are still resistant to tetracyclines despite it no longer being used to treat the disease for years.
Because of the lack of research and data worldwide, the WHO is urging doctors and governments to step up efforts to stop the spread of antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea. With no other options available, gonorrhea could go unchecked and patients with no treatment options.
Individuals can do their part by practicing safe sex, using condoms, getting tested and getting immediate treatment if diagnosed with gonorrhea.