Hawaii is now home to a string of drug-resistant gonorrhea cases, which further signal a coming-age in which sexually transmitted diseases (as well as others) are no longer treatable with current medicine.

Seven patients with this strain were finally treated with the 2-drug combination of ceftriaxone and azithromycin, with lab resulting confirming that the bug was very resistant to azithromycin and was gaining resistance against ceftriaxone. This is yet another example of how last-resort drugs were shown to be ineffective in the fight against gonorrhea.

Scientists are now developing a new antibiotic, ETX0914 (or zoliflodacin), which is will treat gonorrhea much the same way current antibiotics can. But with this new drug, there is little known resistance issues. Though it is years away from coming to major markets, it is still a positive sign that there may yet be a way to treat these drug-resistant infections in the future. [1]

Dr. Jonathan Mermin, who directs the Centers for Disease Control’s center for STDs, said of the future of STD treatment:

“Our last line of defense against gonorrhea is weakening. If resistance continues to increase and spread, current treatment will ultimately fail and 800,000 Americans a year will be at risk for untreatable gonorrhea.” [2]

While the infection isn’t completely drug resistant, the results are showing that it is evolving that way. And if people let their STDs go untreated, they may find themselves developing a strain that cannot be corrected. It is also possible to pass the infection around much more quickly the longer someone goes without receiving treatment.

The Centers for Disease Control warns that most people aren’t even aware that they have gonorrhea, which is mostly because it is often symptomless. The majority of those who have contracted it won’t know that they have it unless they receive a test, emphasizing the importance of regular screening.

The CDC also states that doctors should not use their own regimen for treating the disease, but instead follow CDC protocol of the two drug combination.

Dr. Gail Bolan, director of CDC’s Division of STD Prevention explains the reasoning behind this:

“When providers do not treat according to our recommendations and use a regimen they think will work, patients will feel better. Their symptoms will reduce but they will still have the organism.”

Gonorrhea is the second most commonly reported infectious disease, following chlamydia.

Sources:

[1] Huffington Post

[2] NBC News


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About Anna Scanlon:
Anna Scanlon is an author of YA and historical fiction and a PhD student at the University of Leicester where she is finishing her degree in modern history.