Gonorrhoea warning: it may soon be untreatable. The Brits are facing a growing scourge of venereal disease in the form of Gonorrhoea, which is becoming increasingly antibiotic resistant. Britain’s chief medical officer, Dame Sally Davies, has written to GPs and pharmacists across that nation to warn them of the situation. The sexually transmitted infection (STI) under the microscope is caused by strains of the Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacterium, which resist treatment. The antimicrobial resistance to the antibiotic azithromycin is fast making the infection untreatable.
Unfortunately, things are not much better in the United States, with gonorrhoea claiming the top spot for most resistant to antibiotic treatments. The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention classified it as an “urgent threat”. In the US there were more than three hundred and fifty thousand cases in 2014.
In Australia, gonorrhoea is the second most common STI and rates of infection have increased by some sixty seven percent between 2008 and 2013. Gonorrhea (also spelt like this) affects more Australian men than women and younger men (20-24) have the highest infection rate. The risk of infection can be greatly reduced by the use of condoms or dams. Swingers, if they are not practicing safe sex, are particularly at risk of STIs.
The bacterial infection can lead to further complications if left untreated; such as infertility and organ failure. The fact that it may soon be untreatable is, of course, of paramount concern to medical authorities around the globe. Doctors in the US are using a combination of antibiotics in a bid to effectively treat the infection. The bacteria, like most bacteria, are highly skilled in adapting to antibiotics to overcome them. They employ gene sharing through a process called horizontal gene transfer to copy the resistance genes. Sorry to say, but this is the kind of sex news Australia fears most.
The over prescribing of unnecessary antibiotics is at the root of the growing resistance to many treatments we are now seeing. Taking unneeded antibiotics introduces bacteria into your body and allows these microbes to learn resistance. Researchers are constantly on the lookout for new antibiotics, but when these are found and then released into the public domain their effectiveness rapidly begins to decline. The treatment by farmers of healthy livestock with antibiotics in order to stimulate growth in the animals has also contributed to this growing resistance in our food chain. Scientists think that this process is now irreversible.
The search for a new class of antibiotics is underway, one which will overcome bacterial resistance. In the meantime, you might be advised to reconsider your sexual proclivities and safe sex practices; or lack of them.