Gonorrhea Unchecked

gonorrheaGonorrhea is one of the world’s most common sexually transmitted infections (STIs).  While it has avoided front-page status as a public health issue for a while, it is mutating into a resurgent and vicious incurable infection worthy of our attention. More then 300,000 people in the United States are infected each year and we have over-relied on having a potion of some sort to make it go away as if it never happened.

However, our medical magic is on the wane.  If left untreated, Gonorrhea is a nasty little bacteria that can cause pelvic inflammation, complications in pregnancy, and infertility. There is a full list of symptoms located on U.S. National Library of Medicine’s website.  Historically, we have put our complete trust in antibiotics like penicillins, tetracyclines and sulfonamides, but they have all slowly lost their collective mojo since the 1940s with the last of those drugs’ effectiveness having ending in the 1970s and 80s.

We are left with a single line of defense – cephalosporins.  They are a common oral antibiotic treatment but over the past several years doctors have begun to notice a trend toward decreasing effectiveness. It began in Japan and slowly crept to Europe and now signs of weakening are showing up in North America. This may be our last great act of defiance against gonorrhea.

A study led by Vanessa Allen of the Public Health Ontario was conducted in Toronto whereby 133 patients were were treated with cephalosporins and yet 1-in-15 still tested positive for gonorrhea after 4 weeks of treatment. Not only is this alarming, these figures are expected to increase as the bacteria becomes more drug-resistant.

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) no longer prescribes physicians to use one antibiotic treatment. Now, they recommend an injection of ceftriaxone as well as a week-long prescription of azithromycin or doxycycline with an additional screening for gonerrhea three months after treatment .

Clinics are also now being advised to report any failures in treatment of the cephalosporin method to local and state health departments.