Over the last thirty years, it has become increasingly difficult to treat gonorrhea with antibiotics, thanks to the bacteria’s ongoing, and increasing resistance to available treatments. According to a new report published in the New England Journal of Medicine, a new strain of the bacteria has been discovered in Australia and alarmingly, this bacterium seems to be resistant to the only treatment options available currently. The discovery of this new strain indicates the need to act fast and find another treatment for what might soon become an untreatable sexually transmitted infection.
The recommended antibiotic treatment for gonorrhea is ceftriaxone, which is thought to be the most effective of the few options still available today. This new strain, A8806, which was found in a woman travelling around the country, does not respond to ceftriaxone however.
The worry here is that we do not know how common the strain is, where it started to spread, and whether or not it even exists in other countries outside of Australia. According to the authors of the report, if the strain does exist elsewhere, it is possible that it is simply not being detected. All we know for now is that the woman who presented with the infection was a European, travelling at the time in Australia. The man she had had intercourse with, one week prior, was also a European traveller.
The woman was subsequently treated with an injection of ceftriaxone and azithromycin taken orally, with success. She tested negative for gonorrhea two months after the strain was first discovered. This would not necessarily be the case for everyone who presented with this resistant strain however. This strain is likely not to respond to current treatment options but this is not definitive. It is also hard to know which of the two treatments won out in the end in this particular case but it is thought that this strain has some sensitivity to azithromycin. Without a doubt, there now exists a resistant strain of gonorrhea that is resistant to our safety gonorrhea treatment, ceftriaxone, among an array of other antibiotics that used to work, which is a potentially serious problem the world over.
In many ways it was fortuitous that the woman was travelling in Australia at the time since research and surveillance on sexually transmitted infection in this country is unparalleled. It might not have been picked up somewhere else. It might not have been caught anywhere else either, but we just cannot be sure about this at the moment. It’s now time for other countries to test for this strain. Once again, the race is on for a gonorrhea treatment that the bacterium will not resist. You can read more about Australia’s race to beat Gonorrhoea here.
Often people who are infected with gonorrhea do not present with symptoms. In this case, they are unlikely to get tested and will continue to spread the infection to new partners. Untreated gonorrhea can lead to infertility and other unpleasant complications in both males and females. The only way to steer clear of the infection is to get tested before new partners and use protection. This infection, like all other STIs can be passed on via unprotected oral and anal sex also. If symptoms are present they will likely include a burning sensation when urinating, a white, green or yellow discharge and painful or swollen testes in males. While there is so much uncertainty regarding the future for gonorrhea treatment, good sexual health practice is vital.
There have been reports of a new medication that may help in the fight against gonorrhoea and you can read more about that at this UK based sexual health testing website – www.theSTIclinic.com