WHO Warning: Untreatable Gonorrhoea Superbug Strains May Spread Further

The article notes that resistance to ESCs in general has already been reported in 50 countries, so if the last line of antibiotics for gonorrhea becomes ineffective, this and certain other diseases may someday develop into a global epidemic. It would be sensible to quickly expend resources to try to prevent that from happening, but unfortunately, the world overall is not really moving enough in that direction today.

In my view, increasingly problematic antibiotic resistance is another reason that the U.S. should become a leader in the issue by first drastically taking measures to cut its unnecessarily high pharmaceutical costs. Instead of obscene profits for large pharmaceutical corporations, a lot more money should then be spent on research to combat the worrying antibiotic resistance of the modern era.

At least three people worldwide are infected with totally untreatable “superbug” strains of gonorrhoea which they are likely to be spreading to others through sex, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday.

Giving details of studies showing a “very serious situation” with regard to highly drug-resistant forms of the sexually-transmitted disease (STD), WHO experts said it was “only a matter of time” before last-resort gonorrhoea antibiotics would be of no use.

“Gonorrhoea is a very smart bug,” said Teodora Wi, a human reproduction specialist at the Geneva-based U.N. health agency.

“Every time you introduce a new type of antibiotic to treat it, this bug develops resistance to it.”

The WHO estimates 78 million people a year get gonorrhoea, an STD that can infect the genitals, rectum and throat.

The infection, which in many cases has no symptoms on its own, can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancy and infertility, as well as increasing the risk of getting HIV.

Wi, who gave details in a telephone briefing of two studies on gonorrhoea published in the journal PLOS Medicine, said one had documented three specific cases – one each in Japan, France and Spain – of patients with strains of gonorrhoea against which no known antibiotic is effective.

“These are cases that can infect others. It can be transmitted,” she told reporters. “And these cases may just be the tip of the iceberg, since systems to diagnose and report untreatable infections are lacking in lower-income countries where gonorrhoea is actually more common.”

The WHO’s program for monitoring trends in drug-resistant gonorrhoea found in a study that from 2009 to 2014 there was widespread resistance to the first-line medicine ciprofloxacin, increasing resistance to another antibiotic drugs called azithromycin, and the emergence of resistance to last-resort treatments known as extended-spectrum cephalosporins (ESCs).

In most countries, it said, ESCs are now the only single antibiotics that remain effective for treating gonorrhoea. Yet resistance to them has already been reported in 50 countries.