The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that untreatable strains of gonorrhoea (Filipino term: tulo) is on the rise. The latest warning is based on findings from two studies, co-authored by WHO researchers. Data shows that from 77 countries; more than 50 first-line antibiotics were ineffective.
The new strain dubbed as ‘super gonorrhea’ has surfaced, which is resistant to the antibiotic treatments usually given to patients with the disease.
The outbreak began in Leeds, with other cases having been reported in Oldham, Macclesfield and Scunthorpe (all in England). Some patients reported having sexual partners from other areas of England.
All cases to date have been transmitted through heterosexual (male-and-female) intercourse.
Usually, gonorrhea can be treated by taking two different antibiotics simultaneously: azithromycin and ceftriaxone. The new strain is resistant to the azithromycin component of the treatment and is therefore currently untreatable.
Chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies has written to GPs (General practitioners) and pharmacists to ensure that they are prescribing the correct drugs in response to this outbreak.
If patients are only prescribed one antibiotic rather than the necessary two treatments, they will not get better and the disease could develop a resistance to the antibiotic the patient was taking, which is how a ‘super’ strain is passed on.
Teodora Wi, a human reproduction specialist at the Geneva-based UN health agency, 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,” she added.
Health experts recommend safe sex with condoms, having sex with only one person who is uninfected, communication with partners, and of course, abstaining from intercourse.
Gonorrhea, is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae. Many people have no symptoms. Men may have burning with urination, discharge from the penis, or testicular pain. Women may have burning with urination, vaginal discharge, vaginal bleeding between periods, or pelvic pain. Complications in women include pelvic inflammatory disease and in men include inflammation of the epididymis.
A person who has been infected can become infected again by exposure to someone who is infected. Borrowing and sharing of unsanitized ‘sex toys’ can also pose a threat for spreading the disease.