The New Gonorrhea Super Strain
The World Health Organization reported that patients all over the world are infected by a new, super strain of gonorrhea. And we do not say ‘super’ because the strain is good or somewhat easier than the other gonorrhea types. On the opposite, this ‘super gonorrhea’ is impossible to fight off. Something like a super force we do not have the weapons for just yet.
According to estimates, about 78 million people get infected by gonorrhea yearly, but until this point, we had the suitable treatment for the gonorrhea bacteria. The new, resistant super strain is developed through a bacteria mistreatment of the gonorrhea left in the throat of the person after oral sex.
How Did the New Gonorrhea Super Strain Appear?
The reason why people and doctors often miss this is because gonorrhea in the throat can look the same as a strep throat. When a doctor sees it, they will prescribe standard antibiotics. Unfortunately, these antibiotics mix with the super strain bacteria and create the new, antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea.
“The bacteria evolve to resist them,” says agency Medical Officer Dr. Teodora Wi. Both of the antibiotics currently used for treatment (cenftriaxone and azitromycin) are becoming ineffective against this new strain.
Treating the Strain
Gonorrhea can affect the rectum, throat and genitals. At this point, it is the second most reported sexually transmitted disease in the U.S, accounting for 820,000 patients yearly. Since the condition often shows no symptoms, many people do not realize they are infected until a while has passed.
When you leave gonorrhea untreated, you may start experiencing symptoms such as burning during urination, inflammation, discharge and fertility problems (in women). In addition, having gonorrhea increases your risk of being infected with HIV, which is also spread during sexual contact.
So far, U.S. authorities have succeeded in fighting the infection by using a combination of both antibiotics, but this is not fully successful. In addition, it is unclear how long this combination will be able to deter the ‘super’ gonorrhea.
In the meantime, scientists work on three new drugs:
- Solithromycin – has completed the third phase of the trial
- Two other drugs in the second phase trial
We are uncertain as to when these drugs will be available for purchase in the pharmaceutical market. In addition, it is uncertain whether these new antibiotics will be stronger than the currently used combo and the infection itself.
The Latest Warning
According to WHO, there are three confirmed cases of super gonorrhea where none of the current antibiotics were effective. Because of this, the organization fears that the drugs will soon become futile and we will be back to the beginning where treatment for this infection was non-existent.
The latest warning is sourced in two studies, co-authored by research from the WHO. These findings look at data from 77 countries, out of which antibiotics are found to be ineffective in more than 50!
Prof Claudia Estcourt, a member of the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV shares her concerns about the matter: ”In a very short space of time, we have seen changes in the bacteria at an unprecedented rate, which means that many antibiotics which used to work are no longer effective. We are running out of options.”
Marc Sprenger, the director of antimicrobial resistance at the WHO says: “To control gonorrhea, we need new tools and systems for better prevention, treatment, earlier diagnosis, and more complete tracking and reporting of new infections, antibiotic use, resistance and treatment failures. 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.”
Unfortunately, this is only the beginning of the fight of the gonorrhea against our most effective antibiotics. Since their introduction back in the 1930s, the bacteria neisseria gonorrhea slowly began to move one step ahead of our previously successful treatment. As Teodora Wi, a human reproduction specialist at a health agency in Geneva said: “Gonorrhoea is a very smart bug. Every time you introduce a new type of antibiotic to treat it, this bug develops resistance to it.”
In addition to this, Wi speaks of two new studies that were published in the Plos Medicine journal and spoke of such cases in France, Japan and Spain. Seeing that this infection is highly spreadable, she believes that this is only ‘the tip of the iceberg’.
Funding is also adding to this issue. At this point, specialists are also worried about the overall funding for the sexual health services on a worldwide level. The number of infected patients grows within the minute, and people simply do not listen to the advice for safer sexual activities.
Even though the need for new antibiotics is imminent, the pipeline remains very thin. With only three new potential drugs in development, and no guarantee or proof they will be effective until the final-stage trials, we are basically not progressing at all.
Scientists work tirelessly at developing new drugs or finding a way to use existing drugs to treat this strain. Any successful treatment must be rapidly checked and made accessible to everyone who has a need of it. We simply cannot allow our medicine to go backwards, and this is exactly what gonorrhea is achieving.
What to Do?
The key to preventing gonorrhea from creating resistant strains remains the same as always – try to protect yourselves every time you practice sexual relations of any kind. In addition to this, regular check-ups are highly recommended.
A doctor can diagnose oral gonorrhea with a culture or a throat swab. The standard gonorrhea treatment is an intramuscular injection of oral axithromycin or ceftriaxone. In addition, experts recommend avoiding gargling with mouthwash or salt water. This is not a reliable treatment for gonorrhea.
Without any treatment or effective treatment for that matter, the body may be able to clear gonorrhea naturally, but the chances for this are still low. This does not always occur, so make sure to get tested and treated immediately to avoid all kinds of havoc.
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