Gonorrhea strain resistant to antibiotics
Published: Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, October 16, 2012 20:10
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story described gonorrhea as a virus. That is incorrect. The story has been updated to describe it as a bacterial infection.
Gonorrhea, the second-most reported sexually transmitted infection (STI), has developed strains that are resistant to antibiotics and treatments.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a public health response plan last month in the wake of evidence that the bacterial infection Neisseria gonorrhoeae, known simply as gonorrhea and one of the most common STIs, has developed antibiotic-resistant strains.
“Basically, the CDC release suggests not using the preferred antibiotic, in the hopes of avoiding the bacteria becoming more resistant to the drug,” Eric Buhi, associate professor in USF’s College of Public Health and director of the Collaborative for Research Understanding Public Health program (CRUSH), said.
Gonorrhea is the second-most reported STD in the United States. It mostly affects young people in their teens, and people in their college years. More than 700,000 new cases of gonorrhea occur each year in the U.S., though less than half of them are reported to the CDC, according to the CDC’s website. Gonorrhea is caused by bacteria and is infectious, but people do not show any symptoms.
For college students, one of the groups most likely to contract an STI, according the CDC, an antibiotic-resistant strain would mean different treatment for those who contract the infection.
According to the new CDC treatment guidelines, instead of an administering an oral antibiotic, individuals who test positive for gonorrhea must now receive a 250-mg shot in the buttocks, Buhi said.
“If you don’t like needles, obviously the shot is going to be more painful as opposed to the pill, and more of an inconvenience as well,” Buhi said.
It is unknown whether or not this strain is of concern to the U.S. yet, though, Dr. John Toney, professor of medicine in the USF Division of Infectious Disease and International Medicine, who specializes in STIs, said.
“Right now, there is nothing to be too concerned about because we have not encountered this new drug-resistant strain in America,” Toney said. “But once we get there, we have very, very few options left.”
Yet the increase is alarming because of the chance that the resistant strain could develop into a superbug and thus become an international concern.
“The CDC is looking at not if it comes to America, but when,” Toney said.
In the 1980s, Florida experienced an outbreak of the gonorrhea infection that was resistant to penicillin.
“When this happened, USF was able to set up an STD HIV Prevention Training center for the whole state to help combat this issue,” Toney said.
When gonorrhea became resistant to penicillin, a new antibiotic, fluoroquinolone, became one of the new main methods of treatment — yet resistance to that drug has also developed, as has resistance to another drug, ceftriaxone, Toney said.
“Unfortunately, because you can buy antibiotics over the counter in other countries, we saw resistance to fluoroquinolone (increase) in southeast Asia by 2000,” Toney said.
Individuals who contract the STI are now subject to a follow-up by their doctor to check if the infection was cured, a practice that was previously not very common, Toney said.
“I don’t think this news changes our message,” Buhi said. “Our message has always been very clear — with every new partner, use protection.”