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Thursday 27th October 2016

Gonorrhoea may be new superbug

30th March 2010

The World Health Organisation (WHO) is beginning to revise its attitude toward gonorrhoea, which it says has developed a resistance to most commonly available antibiotics and may soon become a 'superbug'.


The WHO plans to hold a meeting next week, at which experts will discuss possible options and strategies for treating the disease.

Gonorrhoea is a common sexually-transmitted infection (STI), which can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease if it is left untreated.

Women who contract gonorrhoea and carry the disease without knowing can end up having ectopic pregnancies and even become infertile.

According to the WHO's worldwide estimates, there are at least 340 million new cases of syphilis, gonorrhoea, chlamydia, trichomoniasis, and other STIs per year.

While the highest incidence of gonorrhoea is in south and southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, the WHO has not yet identified the various types of infection that may exist in those countries.

However, in most cases, the standard treatment regime includes a dose of either ceftriaxone or cefixime, to which resistances are developing among some strains of the disease.

In Japan, health authorities have increased the recommended dose of antibiotics for treating gonorrhoea, where the disease seems to be resistant to multiple drugs.

In other parts of Asia, such as Hong Kong, China, and Australia, doctors have noted a similar resistance to multiple drugs.

In the UK, the disease is the second most common STI, with 16,629 cases of gonorrhoea recorded in 2008.

Next week's meeting would be the first held on gonorrhoea, signifying the possibility of a global threat.

Catherine Ison, a gonorrhoea specialist from the Health Protection Agency in the UK, said that specialists needed to use the meeting as a forum for coming up with different treatment options, and in order to improve the ways in which they communicate across different countries.

Before the current treatment regime became established, doctors used penicillin to treat gonorrhoea.

However, the bacterium developed a resistance to penicillin, and it is no longer a valid treatment at all.

Ison said that gonorrhoea was a very clever bacterium, and that if the problem was not addressed, gonorrhoea could become very difficult to treat.

She said that, while ceftriaxone and cefixime were still very effective against gonorrhoea, the disease showed signs of emerging resistance, but that the disease could be stopped from spreading if more people used condoms.


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