March 30, 2010

Is Gonorrhea Developing Into A Superbug?

The sexually transmitted disease gonorrhea, which has become resistant to many different types of drugs, could be on the brink of evolving into a superbug, according to comments made by a health professor during a Society of General Microbiology meeting on Monday.

Catherine Ison of the London-based Health Protection Agency (HPA), speaking during the society's annual spring meeting in Edinburgh, stated that certain strains of the gonococcal bacteria (which causes gonorrhea) were becoming resistant to the antibiotics ceftriaxone and cefixime.

Gonorrhea, the second most common sexually-transmitted bacterial infection, could eventually become resistant to all forms of currently available treatment options. If left untreated, the disease can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancy and infertility in women.

"Choosing an effective antibiotic can be a challenge because the organism that causes gonorrhea is very versatile and develops resistance to antibiotics very quickly," Ison said in a March 29 press release. "Penicillin was used for many years until it was no longer effective and a number of other agents have been used since. The current drugs of choice"¦ are still very effective but there are signs that resistance particularly to cefixime is emerging and soon these drugs may not be a good choice."

"There are few new drugs available and so it is probable that the current use of a single dose may soon need to be revised and treatment over several days or with more than one antibiotic will need to be considered," she added. "If this problem isn't addressed then there is a real possibility that gonorrhea will become a very difficult infection to treat."

The topic will be discussed during a World Health Organization (WHO) meeting next week in Manila.


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