Antibiotic-Resistant Gonorrhea Is On The Rise In The US

Rates of super-gonorrhea — an antibacterial resistant form of the sexually transmitted disease — are rising in cities around the country, according to a new study.

The study from the CDC warns that that threat is real and that growing antimicrobial drug resistance might hamper our ability to prevent and control the infection in the future.

They found that rates of super-gonorrhea are rising in some cities, including Denver, Honolulu, Minneapolis, Phoenix, Portland, San Diego, San Francisco, and Seattle.

The new research was published in the April 2014 issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases.

Gonorrhea is “remarkably adept” at developing resistance to the drugs used to treat it, the researchers note. It can no longer be treated by penicillin and other antimicrobial drugs; the antibiotics cefixime and ceftriaxone are currently our last line of defence against it. If gonorrhea continues to adapt and develops a resistance to those as well, it would “pose a major public health challenge,” the researchers note.

Just last year an “incurable” strain of gonorrhea that was resistant to even these last-defence drugs was found in patients in Toronto.

Resistant strains of the disease first cropped up in Hawaii and California and have since spread all across the country. For this study, the researchers analysed rates of gonorrhea and resistant gonorrhea in 17 cities between 1991 and 2006. (Those cities might not be representative of the entire country — they are simply the cities where relevant data was available.)

Gonorrhea was actually more common in the cities with lower resistance. But what was alarming is that rates of gonorrhea were on the rise in the cities with higher resistance, while rates were declining in cities with less resistant strains.

The researchers stress that the relationship between higher resistance and increased incidence of gonorrhea may not be causal. Still, the results suggest that when 10% of gonorrhea cases are resistant, there might be an associated 7% spike in the incidence of gonorrhea.

Every year, there are 820,000 cases of gonorrhea in the U.S.

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