First cases of gonorrhea resistant to several classes of antibiotics identified in the US
Public health officials say they have found two cases of gonorrhea that appear to have reduced susceptibility to all available antibiotics for treatment. This is the first time gonorrhea strains so resistant to antibiotics have been identified in the United States.
Increased sexual activity during the pandemic, along with fewer people going for routine health check-ups, supercharged expansion sexually transmitted infections worldwide.
These infections, including gonorrhea, are becoming increasingly resistant to the antibiotics available to treat them, a problem that is becoming a dire threat to public health.
Globally, antibiotic-resistant infections kill approximately 700,000 people each year. That number is expects an increase up to 10 million deaths per year by 2050 if steps are not taken to stop the spread of resistant organisms.
Experts say it was never a question of when this highly resistant strain of gonorrhea would arrive in the U.S., but when.
“The concern is that this particular strain has been circulating around the world, so it was only a matter of time before it hit the US,” says Dr. Jeffrey Klausner, clinical professor of public health at the University of Southern California Keck. Los Angeles Medical School.
“It is a reminder that gonorrhea is becoming more and more resistant, more and more difficult to treat. We have no new antibiotics. We haven’t had new antibiotics to treat gonorrhea in years, and we really need a different treatment strategy,” said Klausner, who sits on the CDC’s gonorrhea treatment task force.
Gonorrhea is sexually transmitted and is one of the most commonly diagnosed infections in the US. It is caused by bacteria Neisseria gonorrhoeae, which can infect mucous membranes in the genitals, rectum, throat and eyes.
People can be infected without symptoms. If left untreated, the infection can cause pelvic pain and infertility in women and blindness in newborns.
In addition to reduced susceptibility to ceftriaxone, gonorrhea strains identified in Massachusetts also showed reduced susceptibility to cefixime and azithromycin; strains were resistant to ciprofloxacin, penicillin and tetracycline, according to a clinical alert sent to doctors by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.
The MDPH says he has not yet found any connection between the two cases.
In 2021, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended giving a double dose of the antibiotic ceftriaxone in an effort to overcome bacterial resistance to this antibiotic, and it seems to have worked in those cases, but that antibiotic is the last line of defense against this infection, and experts say a new approach is needed.
Klausner hopes to win FDA approval for a test that would tailor antibiotic treatment according to the genetic susceptibility of the particular strain of gonorrhea that infects a person. This is called resistance-driven treatmentt, and Klausner says it works for HIV, tuberculosis and some other hospital-acquired infections, but it has never been tried for gonorrhea.
This strain of gonorrhea has previously been seen in Asia-Pacific countries and the United Kingdom, but not in the United States. A genetic marker shared by the two Massachusetts residents was also previously seen in the Nevada case, although that strain retained sensitivity to at least one class of antibiotics.
The first symptoms of gonorrhea are often painful urination, abdominal or pelvic pain, increased vaginal discharge or bleeding between periods, but many infections are asymptomatic, According to the CDCwhich is why routine examinations are important to detect infection.