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New strain of gonorrhoea is drug resistant

12th July 2011

International researchers have discovered a new strain of the sexually transmitted disease gonorrhoea, and found that it has become resistant to antibiotics.

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The new variant of gonorrhoea is very effective at mutating, according to researchers at the Swedish Reference Laboratory.

Scientists attending a conference of the International Society for Sexually Transmitted Disease Research in Canada will hear the research team present its findings this week.

They are warning that the new bacterium could pose a threat to public health worldwide.

Experts are now calling for new drugs to help halt the spread of the new gonorrhoea variant.

Japanese researchers were the first to report an antibiotic resistant strain of neisseria gonorrhoea, which is known as H041.

The Swedish researchers have managed to identify all the genetic mutations giving rise to the bacterium's ability to resist a class of antibiotics similar to penicillins, known as cephalosporins.

The H041 strain demonstrated extreme resistance to all forms of cephalosporins, which are commonly used in the treatment of sexually transmitted bacterial infections.

Research Magnus Unemo of the Swedish Research Laboratory for Pathogenic Neisseria warned that unless new drugs and effective treatment programmes were developed, the new strain could spread rapidly around the world.

Unemo called the study an alarming and predictable one.

He said H041 had shown a remarkable capacity to develop resistance mechanisms to all drugs used against it since the advent of antibiotics in the 1940s.

However, he said it was still to early to tell exactly how widespread the strain had become.

UK Family Planning Association spokeswoman Rebecca Findlay said the research was 'worrying.'

She said people should be more focused than ever on prevention of sexually transmitted diseases.

Findlay said gonorrhoea could affect people of all ages.

UK health officials said that gonorrhoea strains were showing less sensitivity to cephalosporins lately, prompting doctors to increase dosage and change the type of medication prescribed.

They highlighted concerns that the next five years could see gonorrhoea becoming much less treatable than before, advising people that the best form of protection was still to use a condom with all new and casual partners.

One of the most common sexually transmitted diseases in the world, gonorrhoea produces no symptoms in around half of the women it infects.

By contrast, only 2-5% of men are asymptomatic.

Symptoms include a burning sensation on urination and discharge from the genital area.

However, untreated gonorrhoea can lead to serious and incurable health problems.


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