Gonorrhea the new superbug?

Gonorrhea is one of the world’s most common sexually transmitted infections, is easily caught and, in some cases, extremely difficult to detect or notice without a proper STI screening. Now, researchers in the United States have warned against the increasing resistance of gonorrhea to antibiotic treatments.

In 2009, just on a quarter of all strains of gonorrhea tested in a nationwide project in the US had become resistant to common antibiotics such as penicillin, tetracycline and fluoroquinolones. More recently, data from a new study has indicated that a growing resistance to the antibiotic cephalosporin also seems likely, which is a worry because this is the only type of antibiotic left that doctors can recommend to be used for treatment.

The fear is that if the disease does becomes fully resistant to cephalosporin, it may develop into what is termed as a ‘superbug’, which is a strain of bacteria that has become resistant to antibiotics and is very difficult to kill. Other examples of superbugs include methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and some strains of tuberculosis.

Experts are currently busy working on strategies to prevent this from happening, with one approach being to treat the disease with several different antibiotics at once. With gonorrhea strains seemingly growing stronger, medical experts are advocating for more awareness on the disease, protected sex and regular STD screenings.


What is it?

A bacterium that can grow and multiply easily in the warm, moist areas of the reproductive tract in both men and women. The bacterium can also grow in the mouth, throat, eyes and anus. Gonorrhea is spread through contact with the penis, vagina, mouth, or anus, or from mother to baby during birth.

Symptoms: In some people, gonorrhea can show no symptoms at all, which is why getting regular STD screenings, even if you aren’t displaying any symptoms, is so important. Symptoms can show up between two to five days or, in some cases, months. Common symptoms for men include a burning feeling when urinating and white, yellow or green discharge from the penis. Some men can also develop painful or swollen testicles.

For women, typical symptoms include a burning feeling when urinating and increased vaginal discharge or bleeding between periods.

Long-term Effects: In women, gonorrhea is a common cause of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which can lead to internal abscesses and chronic pelvic pain. PID can also damage the fallopian tubes enough to cause infertility. In men, gonorrhea can cause epididymitis, a painful condition which affects the testicles, also leading to infertility.

Treatment: A course of antibiotics can successfully cure gonorrhea; however, successful treatment is becoming more difficult. It is important to complete the full course of medication prescribed to completely cure an infection, and while medication will stop the infection, it won’t repair any permanent damage. Gonorrhea is an infection you can catch repeatedly. If you are diagnosed with the infection, you should tell your sexual partners so they can be treated themselves.

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