Officials from the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention announced on Friday that the sexually transmitted disease gonorrhea has become antibiotic resistant .
In a revised treatment plan released on April 12, the CDC has called for the treatment of gonorrhea with the commonly used class of antibiotic called fluoroquinolones to be halted. Patients should instead be treated with drugs from the cephalosporins class of antibiotics, the only remaining type of drug that is thought to be effective in the treatment of gonorrhea.
Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted disease that is caused by a bacterial infection. While the disease can be cured, the increased resistance to common antibiotics makes treatment more difficult.
Drug resistance is of particular concern to doctors. “Although the cephalosporins offer several potential options for treating gonorrhea, the lack of additional classes of antibiotics is a serious concern. There are currently no new drugs for gonorrhea in the drug development pipeline,” said Dr. John Douglas, director of the CDC’s Division of Sexually Transmitted Diseases Prevention.
Bacteria have the ability to mutate and become resistant to the drugs that are used to treat the infection. When doctors begin to use a different drug to fight the infection, the bacteria can also eventually become resistant to the new drug. This results in the bacteria becoming what scientists refer to as ‘superbugs’ as they are resistant to most treatments and are difficult to cure.
According to a press release from the Infectious Disease Society of America, “Gonorrhea has now joined the list of other superbugs for which treatment options have become dangerously few,” said Henry Masur, MD, president of IDSA. “I have lost patients because the drugs that worked against these superbugs 10 years ago do not work today. Sadly, virtually every infectious disease doctor I know has experienced similar tragedies.”
According to the CDC, gonorrhea is the second most common sexually transmitted disease in the United States. It is estimated that approximately 700,000 people get new cases of gonorrhea each year. The disease is spread by contact and most cases are usually symptomless.
Gonorrhea is the main cause for pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), a condition that can cause severe complications for women attempting to conceive. PID causes scarring of the internal female reproductive organs, which in turn may lead to ectopic pregnancy and infertility.
Sources: Center for Disease Control and Prevention
Infectious Disease Society of America