A few months ago the World Health Organization (WHO) warned about the emergence of a dangerous type of gonorrhea resistant to antibiotics. Now, a group of British doctors have announced the detection of the “worst case” of this sexually transmitted disease ever reported. They have been unable to cure it with first-choice antibiotics, meaning those that are commonly used to control certain diseases.
The National Health Service of the United Kingdom explained that the patient in question is a man who had a stable relationship, but was infected with the “superbug” at the beginning of the year during sexual encounter with a woman in the Southeast Asian.
After applying traditional treatments for the disease, a combination of azithromycin and ceftriaxone, the specialists found that the patient did not respond to antibiotics. “This is the first time that a case shows such a high level of resistance to these drugs and most of the other commonly used antibiotics,” explained Dr. Gwenda Hughes of the NHS.
According to the WHO and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, it is the first time in the world that a case of this type has been reported. So far no other infections have been discovered, but the investigation is still ongoing, according to the British health service.
Meanwhile, health officials are tracking potential sexual partners of the man, who has not been identified, in an attempt to contain the spread of the infection.
Tests performed on the patient suggest that there is a last antibiotic that could cure it, but the doctors will have to wait several weeks to see if it works.
What is gonorrhea?
Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted disease that is spread through vaginal, oral or anal sex without protection. It is caused by a bacteria called Neisseria gonorrhoeae and some of its frequent symptoms include a thick greenish or yellowish genital discharge, painful urination and bleeding between menstrual periods in the case of women.
Among people who suffer from the disease, an average of one in 10 heterosexual men and more than three quarters of women and gay men do not have easily recognizable symptoms. However, untreated infection can cause infertility, pelvic inflammatory disease and can be transmitted to the fetus during pregnancy. It is estimated that around 78 million people are infected with this disease in the world every year.
Gonorrhea can infect the genitals, rectum and throat
It is not the first time that a type of drug-resistant gonorrhea has caused such a panic within the medical community. Also in the United Kingdom, in 2015, a strain resistant to azithromycin was detected, although it was centered in the city of Leeds, in the north of England.
However, according to experts in the matter, the case reported Wednesday is the most “alarming” of all ever reported. Olwen Williams, president of the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV stated that the emergence of this new highly resistant strain is “very worrying” and shows a “significant development” of the bacteria that causes the disease.
Last July, the WHO urged countries to monitor the spread of drug-resistant gonorrhea and to invest in new treatments. The organization explained that currently there are only three candidate drugs for the treatment under development and there is no guarantee that they will work.
Gonorrhea might become resistant to all existing antibiotics
“Since the introduction of penicillin, which was considered a fast and reliable cure, gonorrhea has developed resistance to all therapeutic antibiotics,” Dr. Richard Stabler, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told the BBC.
“Over the past 15 years, therapy has had to change three times because of increasing levels of resistance around the world,” he added. “Now we are at a point where we are using drugs of last resort, but the signs are worrisome, because failures have already been documented in the treatment of certain varieties,” he said.