The rise of 'super-gonorrhea' - antibiotic
resistant mutant, is alarming doctors in the UK with Dame Sally Davis,
England's Chief Medical Officer issuing a statement to all doctors and
pharmacists warning them that gonorrhea could become untreatable due to rising levels of resistant strains.
a sexually transmitted disease caused by Neisseria gonorrhoeae
is treated by a first-line antibiotics like ampicillin
amongst others, but now strains have been identified which are resistant to these antibiotic drugs
. Ceftriaxone-resistant gonorrhea strain
named H041 was isolated from a female sex worker in Japan in the year 2011. This isolate was studied by Makoto Ohnishi and colleagues in a landmark study
that brought salient features of antibiotic resistance to the fore like:
- The emergence of a new mutant variant of Neisseria
gonnorhoea which was resistant to even ceftriaxone antibiotic.
- The isolation of this variant in a high-risk population
indicates risk of further spread.
- H041 is a subclone of cefixime-resistant variants, indicating
growing resistance to antibiotics
- The disease resistant version could spread dramatically via sex
tourists and truck drivers.
The identification of disease resistant
versions in Japan were of particular significance as previous isolation of
resistant strains were associated with spread to Pacific rims, United States,
Europe and global dissemination.
‘Antibiotic resistant mutant of gonorrhea causes alarm due to lack of treatment options.’
The letter from Dame Sally is after a series
of identification of azithromycin-resistant strains of gonorrhea in The UK,
first in Leeds in March, followed by 16 other cases, including in Macclesfield,
Oldham and Scunthorpe.
Will Superbug be a Reality?
The hike in the identification of antibiotic
resistant strains of gonorrhea and the rate of mutation pose added risk of a
superbug invasion. This would, in theory, make gonorrhea untreatable.
Scientists have found that gonorrhea is the strongest living organism
in the biological world.
"We know the bacterium that causes gonorrhea
can mutate and develop new resistance, so we cannot afford to be complacent"
said Dr. Andrew Lee, who is a consultant in communicable disease control with
Public Health England.
Does Everyone Exhibit Symptoms?
In about 10% of men and 50% of women, the
symptoms are not expressed. Untreated gonorrhea, however, can lead to infertility
and pelvic inflammatory disease
Initially, the infection results in a white
to yellowish discharge without the onset of any 'active' symptoms, which can
result in spread to other individuals during sex.
With the rise in the number of disease
resistant cases, it is important to actively prevent the spread of disease by:
- Controlling the prescription of antibiotics. An example would be the continued use of the antibiotic ciprofloxacin, which is considered unnecessary for gonorrhea but is still prescribed in 42% of the cases.
- Ensuring protection during sex
- Care while handling/ reusing sex toys
Gonorrhea is the second most common sexually
transmitted disease after chlamydia
with 78 million cases reported every year, according to the WHO. Considering the high incidence of this sexually transmitted disease
, the emergence of antibiotic resistant variants would be alarming, as stated by Dame Sally "Gonorrhea is at a risk of becoming untreatable due to the continuing emergence of antimicrobial resistance