Gonorrhea Resistant To Antibiotics On The Rise

Source: Mikaela Conley / ABC News

A new editorial published in the New England Journal of Medicine highlighted the concern for the rising rate of antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea in the U.S.  The increases were most prominent in people living in the western United States and in men who have sex with men.

“There is much to do, and the threat of untreatable gonorrhea is emerging rapidly,” CDC authors wrote in the commentary.

Gonorrhea, caused by the bacteria Neisseria gonorrhoeae, is the second-most common communicable disease in the U.S. More than 600,000 Americans contract the infection each year. Symptoms, which include burning while urinating, discharge, and pain during intercourse, usually appear two to five days after contracting the infection, although in some instances a person who has contracted the infection will not experience any symptoms.

The sexually transmitted disease is currently treated with third-generation cephalosporin, an antibiotic. While the prevalence of resistance to the drug was about .1 percent in 2006, that number jumped to 1.7 percent by mid-2011, the editorial noted. The CDC first warned about antibiotic resistance among those who contracted gonorrhea in 2010.

But this isn’t the first time gonorrhea showed signs of drug resistance. During the 1940s and the 1980s, the infection showed resistance to the drugs treating the condition. But, the most jarring part of the problem, authors note, is that the antibiotic used today to treat the infection is the last one left among the recommended antibiotics by the CDC, when taken along with doxycycline or azithromycin, two other oral antibiotics.

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