Has Gonorrhea Developed Resistance to Antibiotics?

We’ve all been treated by antibiotics for one thing or another, but what antibiotics no longer worked as an effective cure?  This is currently the future we face with one of the most prominent sexually transmitted diseases, gonorrhea.  Could we have reached a point where gonorrhea becomes untreatable?   The chief medical officer in the UK recently sent a warning to all doctors that the STD gonorrhea could evolve to be untreatable.  This would mean returning to pre-penicillin era.  What this means is that doctors need to prescribe drugs correctly in order to prevent or delay this outcome.

The increased prevalence of gonorrhea, may stem from better treatment of serious STD’s like HIV.  Not living in an era where STDs are tragically terminal, may make youngsters lax about safe sex practices.  This could also explain the increased rates of syphilis and chlamydia in the younger population.  Lax safe sex practices creates an increased opportunity for STD and gonorrhea transmission. 

For gonorrhea, increased opportunity of transmission combined with antibiotic resistance could mean the disease will be untreatable in the future.  For instance, in March, outbreak of drug-resistant gonorrhea was reported in Leeds, England.  But this is not the first time the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae has developed resistance to antibiotics.  Previously there were a variety of spare drugs that could be used to fight gonorrhea if one didn’t work.  This is no longer the case.

The recommended treatment for gonorrhea is combination of ceftriaxone injection and an oral dose of azithromycin or doxycycline.  A double hit of very different types of antibiotics almost always kills the bacterium.  Taking only one of the antibiotics, however, opens up the danger of resistance first to one drug, and then the other.  The British Association for Sexual Health and HIV discovered that online pharmacies were offering azithromycin on its own, and some doctors were prescribing obsolete antibiotics.  These practices can increase the risk for resistance dramatically.  It is important that doctors and patients understand the repercussions of taking antibiotics improperly to treat this STD.

Gonorrhea quick facts:

·       Symptoms:

o   A burning sensation when urinating (male)

o   A white, yellow, or green discharge from the penis (male)

o   Painful or swollen testicles (male)

o   Painful or burning sensation when urinating (female)

o   Increased vaginal discharge (female)

o   Vaginal bleeding between periods (female)

o   Discharge

o   Anal itching

o   Soreness

o   Bleeding

o   Painful bowel movements

·       Complications:

o   Scar tissue formation

o   Infertility

o   Ectopic pregnancy

o   Long-term pelvic/abdominal pain

·       People at highest risk:

o   People who have had gonorrhea or other STIs in the past

o   Anyone who has a new or multiple sexual partners

o   Anyone who doesn't use a male condom correctly

o   Sex workers

o   Drug users

·       Tests for gonorrhea:

o   Swab sample

o   Urine test

o   Gram Stain