Remember when gonorrhea and syphilis could be treated with a discreet visit to the local health clinic and a dose of penicillin? Well, those days are going to be over very soon. Antibiotic-resistant strains of gonorrhea are spreading among the sexually active, and the disease could soon become untreatable. If you don’t remember from junior high health class, gonorrhea symptoms include a white, yellow, or green discharge from the penis or vagina (or anus or throat), itching, and soreness. It can make both men and women sterile if left untreated. Oh! And a good percentage of men and women remain asymptomatic!
…penicillin and various tetracyclines have all stopped working against the most prevalent strains. This means that today’s gonorrhea patient has very few treatment options left. And with symptoms like burning, swelling of the testicles, vaginal discharge and anal itching, it’s not exactly something that you want to leave untreated. Unfortunately, the US Center for Disease Control (CDC) thinks that emerging resistant strains will one day take the last remaining first-line treatment option away — a treatment that currently consists of a cephalosporin injection combined with an oral dose of either azithromycin or doxycycline. The government agency outlined how that scenario could unfold in a study released today.
By analyzing long-term surveillance data for 17 US cities between 1991 and 2006, researchers were able to trace how gonorrhea became resistant to ciprofloxacin, an antibiotic that lost its CDC recommendation in 2007 because studies demonstrated that 13.8 percent of patient samples were resistant to the drug.
The study’s results are alarming, but not altogether surprising. The researchers found that increased resistance leads to an increase in gonorrhea cases. That’s because being infected with a resistant strain lengthens the amount of time it takes to treat it, giving the infected party more time to pass it on to others.