Sexually transmitted disease gonorrhea is fast becoming defiant to a popular antibiotic, warns U.S. health officials in a newly released report.

Latest data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggested that resistance to cefixime antibiotic started to increase in 2014 while it previously managed to go down, particularly from 2011 to 2013. 

Dr. Robert Kirkcaldy, epidemiologist at CDC's National Center for STD Prevention, led a study on the susceptibility trends of gonorrhea patients to cefixime antibiotic.

Authors of the study gathered data from records of patients in U.S. public clinics from 2006 to 2014, and from the CDC's 2012 update on gonococcal treatment guidelines.

They analyzed results from over 51,000 samples from 34 American cities, and concluded that the recent cefixime data show much work ahead in fighting resistance.

This is despite the fact that cefixime is typically not the first treatment option for the condition, and only used when ceftriaxone-based combination therapy is unavailable.

The CDC's treatment guideline update in 2012 recommended ceftriaxone-based combination medication over cefixime. While the combination medication was given to less than 9 percent of patients in 2006, it shot up to almost 97 percent last year.

Dr. Kirkcaldy said cefixime susceptibility trends have historically been a precursor to ceftriaxone trends, emphasizing the need to continually monitor antimicrobial susceptibility and resistance patterns in gonorrhea antibiotics.

 "[I]t's important to continue monitoring cefixime to be able to anticipate what might happen with other drugs in the future," he added in an interview with Medical Research.

Signs of antibiotic resistance among gonorrhea treatments are troubling and especially important given serious reproductive health complications once gonorrhea goes untreated.

Gonorrhea is spread through unprotected sex, and the infection is especially common among young individuals between ages 15 and 24.

Symptoms do not manifest in many people, but when they do they may include a burning or painful sensation during urination, pain-ridden and swollen testicles, discolored penile discharge, increased vaginal discharge, bleeding between menstrual periods, and signs of rectal infection such as itching and soreness.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) highlighted the need to get routinely screened, particularly in sexually active females ages 24 and below, as well as in older ones with increased gonorrhea risk.

USPSTF remained virtually mum on screening for men, citing that research is necessary to show effectiveness. The task force, however, confirmed that the CDC recommends annual screening for high-risk sexually active men who have sex with other men.

The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association on Tuesday, Nov. 3.

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