A man in the United Kingdom has contracted a super-resistant strain of gonorrhea that experts believe as the world's first case capable of resisting main antibiotic treatment. The incident highlights the pressing need for new drugs for evolving infections.
Gonorrhoea is caused by bacteria neisseria gonorrhoeae, which targets the cells of mucus membranes, and infects the genitals, rectum, and throat.
Symptoms of gonorrhoea usually appear within two weeks of infection but they sometimes emerge after several months. Symptoms include pain when urinating, unusual white, thick green or yellow discharge from sexual organs, pain in the lower abdominal area, bleeding after sex, and bleeding between periods.
As resistant strains of gonorrhea increase, the CDC advised patients to check with their health care provider if their symptoms persist for more days after receiving treatment.
Gonorrhoea, however, can be asymptomatic. Of those infected in the United States, less than half are detected and reported because there are no symptoms. About one in 10 men and over three quarters of women and gay men do not have easily recognizable symptoms.
Main Treatment For Gonorrhea
The main antibiotic treatment used to treat the infection is a combination of azithromycin and ceftriaxone but this failed to cure the infection in the unnamed patient.
"This is the first time a case has displayed such high-level resistance to both of these drugs and to most other commonly used antibiotics," said Gwenda Hughes, from Public Health England (PHE).
"We are following up this case to ensure that the infection was effectively treated with other options and the risk of any onward transmission is minimised."
The unnamed patient will know by next month if he has been cured. No other case has been found so far.
New Drugs Needed
Gonorrhoea is a common sexually transmitted disease but drug-resistant gonorrhea has become an urgent threat.
Figures from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that there are about 820,000 new gonorrhea infections in the United States per year. About 246,000 of these are resistant to at least one antibiotic.
WHO has earlier acknowledged the threats posed by antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea. The agency said that the increasing number of antibiotic-resistant gonorrhoea cases calls for new drugs.
"Specifically, we need new antibiotics, as well as rapid, accurate, point-of-care diagnostic tests — ideally, ones that can predict which antibiotics will work on that particular infection — and longer term, a vaccine to prevent gonorrhoea," WHO's Director of Antimicrobial Resistance Marc Sprenger said in a 2017 statement.