WHO: Drug-Resistant: Gonorrhoea Spreading Across the World*
By Daniel Newton
The World Health Organization has issued a warning about the viral spread of untreatable strains of gonorrhea following the discovery of three people with the superbug.
The details emerging from studies reveal a “very serious situation” as the bug is a highly drug-resistant form of the disease (STD). Doctors now say is only a matter of time until the bug becomes completely resistant to antibiotics. “Gonorrhoea is a very smart bug,” said Teodora Wi at the U.N. health agency.
“Every time you introduce a new type of antibiotic to treat it, this bug develops resistance to it.”
What’s worse is WHO estimates 78 million people a year get gonorrhea, so an antibiotic resistant form of the bug would be catastrophic.
The Guardian reports: The infection, which in many cases has no symptoms on its own, can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancy, and infertility, as well as increasing the risk of getting HIV.
“These are cases that can infect others. It can be transmitted,” she told reporters.
“And these cases may just be the tip of the iceberg, since systems to diagnose and report untreatable infections are lacking in lower-income countries where gonorrhoea is actually more common.”
The WHO’s programme for monitoring trends in drug-resistant gonorrhoea found in a study that from 2009 to 2014 there was widespread resistance to the first-line medicine ciprofloxacin, increasing resistance to another antibiotic drugs called azithromycin, and the emergence of resistance to last-resort treatments known as extended-spectrum cephalosporins (ESCs). In most countries, it said, ESCs are now the only single antibiotics that remain effective for treating gonorrhoea. Yet resistance to them has already been reported in 50 countries.
Manica Balasegaram, director of the Global Antibiotic Research and Development Partnership, said the situation was “grim” and there was a pressing need for new medicines. The pipeline, however, is very thin, with only three potential new gonorrhoea drugs in development and no guarantee any will prove effective in final-stage trials, he said.
“We urgently need to seize the opportunities we have with existing drugs and candidates in the pipeline,” he said.
“Any new treatment developed should be accessible to everyone who needs it, while ensuring it is used appropriately, so that drug resistance is slowed as much as possible.”