WHO: Gonorrhea could soon become untreatable

The AP reports that gonorrhea “is growing resistant to drugs and could soon become untreatable, the World Health Organization [WHO] said.”

The Los Angeles Times “Booster Shots” blog reports that the WHO “announced a global action plan to control its spread and effect. The plan will focus on development of new treatments and on monitoring for incorrect use of antimicrobial agents — a practice that can promote the development of drug resistance in Neisseria gonorrhoeae, the microbe that causes the disease.”

The Time “Healthland” blog reports, “Last year scientists reported finding a strain of gonorrhea in Japan in 2008 that was resistant to all recommended antibiotics; at the time, the researchers warned that it could turn the disease into a serious global health.”

The WHO is now reporting “that drug-resistant strains are popping up in many more countries, including Australia, France, Norway, Sweden and the UK.”

The CNN “The Chart” blog reports that Dr. Manjula Lusti-Narasimhan, scientist at the Department of Reproductive Health and Research at WHO, said, “Once this organism develops full resistance to this last antibiotic that we have, we have nothing else to offer to these patients.”

The ABC News “Health Unit” blog reports, “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned about the rising rate of drug-resistant gonorrhea in an editorial published in the New England Journal of Medicine back in February. So far, there have been no reports of any cases of gonorrhea resistant to cephalosporins in the US, the agency says on its website, but it does have a surveillance system in place.”

According to the authors of the editorial, “There is much to do, and the threat of untreatable gonorrhea is emerging rapidly.”

Reuters quotes Lusti-Narasimhan as saying, “The organism is what we term a superbug – it has developed resistance to virtually every class of antibiotics that exists.” She added, “If gonococcal infections become untreatable, the health implications are significant.”

WebMD points out that the DNA tests now used in many places to identify gonorrhea bacteria “can’t yet tell whether gonorrhea is treatment resistant. That can only be done with old-fashioned cultures.” However, “many labs no longer have the needed equipment or expertise for drug-susceptibility testing.”

HealthDay reports, “Dr. Marc Siegel, an associate professor of medicine at the NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City, said, ‘WHO is right; gonorrhea is a rampant worldwide problem.'”

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