Earlier today the CDC announced new rules for the treatment for Gonorrhea, a sexually transmitted disease that can contribute to HIV transmission, recommending that American doctors only use ceftriaxon in their treatment. The rules make for worrisome reading.Previously, the STD had been treatable by both cefixime and ceftriaxone, but new studies suggest that the disease is becoming increasingly immune to cefixime — just like it did with penicillin, ampicillin, tetracycline and doxycycline and a host of other new drugs. The aim is to stop over-prescribing cefixime before the drug becomes completely resistant.
Why have these drugs stopped working? The CDC cited the “ability of Neisseria gonorrhea to develop antimicrobial resistance” as the key reasoning behind the new rules. To put it simply, the drug is unusually good at beating the best medicines we throw at it.
“If this was a person, this person would be incredibly creative,” aid Jonathan Zenilman, of John Hopkins told NPR. “The bug has an incredible ability to adapt and just develop new mechanisms of resisting the impact of these drugs.”
The news comes just months after the World Health organisation expressed fear that a new drug-resistant strain of the disease could become a new “superbug”. One drug resistant strain has already been discovered in Britain, Australia, France, Sweden and Norway, and the worry is that it could be the “canary in the coal mine for antibiotic resistance in the STD setting”, according to one CDC expert.
Worse still, pharmaceutical companies do not invest heavily in antibiotics as they are not profitable, Bloomberg reports.
Gonorrhea may be symptomless, but can cause serious problems if left untreated — even death. It is the second most-common sexually transmitted disease, behind chlamydia, with 106 million new cases of the disease annually.
The new treatment will not please sufferers either. Cefixime was orally administered through pills, while ceftriaxone requires a series of injections. And because both drugs are members of the same family, experts believe its only a matter of time before we lose that drug too.
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