There are many Americans nationwide living with sexually transmitted diseases-- in fact, according to the CDC, 110 million Americans live with STDs. Some, like HIV and herpes, last a person’s entire life. Gonorrhea is one of the most reported sexually transmitted diseases (there are approximately 700,000 new cases of gonorrhea in the US each year).
Gonorrhea can be transmitted through vaginal, oral, or anal sex, and if left untreated, can result in infertility or can be passed down during pregnancy. Typically, gonorrhea can be treated with antibiotics. Unfortunately, there’s a new strain of gonorrhea that has not been responding to medication.
The History of Gonorrhea Treatment
Many patients who were diagnosed with gonorrhea in the mid-1970s used penicillin to combat this STD. Unfortunately, the disease eventually became resistant to penicillin, and by the late 2000s, the only class of drugs that was able to treat gonorrhea was called cephalosporin. Gonorrhea has continued to mutate, and antibiotics have also evolved. Some patients use an injectable form of cephalosporin rather than an oral form, as it pumps more medicine into the bloodstream.
‘Super Gonorrhea’ Spreading in the UK
There is now a strand of gonorrhea that is making antibiotics almost ineffective. The strand, called “super gonorrhea”, popped up in the UK last year, alarming the country. There were attempts by medical professionals to stop the outbreak in the West Midlands, London and southern England, but they were met with limited success.
Some doctors say it was only a matter of time before gonorrhea became drug-resistant, as bacteria are always mutating and evolving. Not only that, but antibiotics like ceftriaxone and azithromycin, drugs which are used in combination to treat gonorrhea, have been losing their potency due to their common usage.
How Antibiotic Resistance Happens
One of the biggest struggles for doctors now is finding patients who were sexual partners of those diagnosed with drug-resistant gonorrhea. The organization Public Health England is attempting to track down sexual partners of those who have already been diagnosed with this STD, and while less than half of those sexual partners followed up with the agency, of those that were tested, 94% reported having the infection. For more information about sexually transmitted diseases and their treatments, view our STDs condition page.